Catholic homily outline for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Strengthening faith

A prophet is not without honor except in his native place.

A prophet is not without honor except in his native place.

Central idea: Humble prophets bring glad tidings to the humble poor. Doctrine: Perseverance in faith. Practical application: Shipbuilding our faith.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.

To view Lectionary 101, click here.

Central idea: Humble prophets bring glad tidings to the humble poor

Reading 1 Ez 2:2-5

As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet,
and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

  • Ezekiel did not make himself a prophet. Rather, the Lord spoke to him and the spirit of the Lord entered him.
    • The Catechism tells us, “In their ‘one to one’ encounters with God, the prophets draw light and strength for their mission” (CCC 2584). One reason they needed light and strength was that although the Jews were specially chosen by God to be his children, they were obstinate rebels.
    • We Catholics cannot claim any superiority to them. We are baptized into Christ and yet we have the tendency to rebel against God’s will for us.
  • “The mission of the prophets” was to give to the Chosen People what they needed: “education in faith and conversion of heart” (CCC 2581). Both the Jews’ thoughts and actions needed to be turned to God’s will.
    • We also need an ongoing “education in faith and conversion of heart.”
    • Conversion of heart precedes the enlightenment of the mind. When we sin, we tell ourselves to “shut up” when it comes to recognizing that sin—we say, It’s not a sin or I didn’t sin or It was justified. That is hardness of heart. But when we return to God by repentance, we once again recognize the truth that Christ, our supreme prophet, has revealed to us.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 123:1-2, 2, 3-4

R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.

To you I lift up my eyes
who are enthroned in heaven —
As the eyes of servants
are on the hands of their masters.

As the eyes of a maid
are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the LORD, our God,
till he have pity on us.

Have pity on us, O LORD, have pity on us,
for we are more than sated with contempt;
our souls are more than sated
with the mockery of the arrogant,
with the contempt of the proud.

  • A good servant’s attention is focused on the one he serves.
  • In the psalm, those speaking are focused on the Lord now because their human masters are mistreating them. Arrogant men mock them.
  • It would have been better if they had had their eyes fixed on the Lord earlier to do his will. It would have been better for them to have been humble before God rather than to be humiliated by men.
  • Regardless of why we are mistreated, it is right to turn to the Lord in our affliction, not only because he is our true master but even more because he is our Father.

Reading 2 2 Cor 12:7-10

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

  • Even though God’s spirit entered Ezekiel, the prophet could not become proud because the Lord told him his message would be rejected.
  • Paul confesses that he could have become proud because the Lord made him a prophet, his apostle. But Paul received this “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble. It made him ask three times for it to be removed, but the Lord wanted him to keep it and to rely on the grace he was giving him.
  • Paul could be “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints,” since they were accompanied by Christ’s grace.
  • Thus, whenever we suffer our eyes should shift immediately from ourselves and from those making us suffer to the Lord, like attentive servants.
    • Our inability makes room for Christ’s ability.

Alleluia Cf. Lk 4:18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.

  • We are poor entitled to glad tidings if we know our need for God.

Gospel Mk 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

  • Jesus is a prophet, that is, he reveals the truth to those with whom he speaks (CCC 436).
  • His own townspeople, in large part, reject him and what he has to say.
  • Their words of astonishment appear to be mockery and seem to be demanding miracles from him. In this they are anticipating how Herod behaved during Christ’s Passion.
  • Their words also reveal that Our Lord had lived an ordinary life in Nazareth, so his townsmen think they fully know him.
  • Evidently, they don’t think they need anything from him. They don’t see themselves as the poor, to whom the Lord brings glad tidings (Lk 4:18). This is ironic because of the low esteem their fellow Jews held Galilee and even Nazareth.
  • Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deeds there” due to their lack of faith, “apart from curing a few sick people” who did have faith. His miracles, then, in part, are confirmations of the truth he speaks.

Doctrine: Perseverance in faith

  • We can lose our faith by doing evil. As St. Paul puts it, “By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tim 1:18-19; CCC 162). By conscience, St. Paul means “a good conscience” (CCC 162).
    • For example, many people today lose their faith in God, not because it is difficult to believe in him, but because they do not live the virtue of chastity.
    • Recall in regard to education in faith and conversion of heart that conversion of heart precedes the enlightenment of the mind. This is because when we sin, we tell ourselves It’s not a sin or I didn’t sin or It was justified. That is a hardness of heart that causes hardness of head!
  • It is also possible for us to find a safe harbor for our faith and even to help make one. The Catechism advises: we must nourish our faith “with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be ‘working through charity,’ abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church” (CCC 162).
    • We can guard our faith and help it grow by constant prayerful reading of the Sacred Scriptures; by asking God to increase our faith; by doing good for others; by making acts of hope rather than giving into sadness; and by holding to all the doctrines of faith and morals that the Church teaches.
  • Jesus Christ is the supreme prophet. We share in Christ’s prophetic office by nature of our baptismal vocation. So we, too, have the call to witness to the truth by our words and lives.
  • However, when we begin to embrace our vocation to be witnesses to the truth, we become aware of obstacles. The obstacles are really our participation in God’s seeming inability to reach people who are indifferent to him or who reject him.
    • Christ did not force his townsmen to have faith in him. God sent Ezekiel to preach even though the people would reject him. St. Paul saw that power is made perfect in weakness.
    • God is omnipotent. “God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God’s power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it when it ‘is made perfect in weakness.’” (CCC 268)
    • Our faith in the face of our weakness to move others reveals to us “the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. This seemingly impotent faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power. The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that ‘nothing will be impossible with God,’ and was able to magnify the Lord: ‘For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.’” (CCC 273)
    • Our inability makes room for Christ’s ability.
  • There is also a kind of awesome hidden bonus or treasure in our weakness. St. Paul learns “from the Lord, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,’ and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that ‘in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church’” (CCC 1508). This hidden treasure is that our inability is what makes us co-redeemers with Christ. This is why St. Paul can be content with ‘weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints.”

Practical application: Shipbuilding our faith

  • We have seen from the Catechism that we can guard our faith and help it grow by constant prayerful reading of the Sacred Scriptures; by asking God to increase our faith; by doing good for others; by making acts of hope rather than giving into sadness; and by holding to all the doctrines of faith and morals that the Church teaches. Also, our weakness need not be any obstacle to faith but can increase it. Thus, we have a menu of ways we can grow in faith. If we ask the Holy Spirit for light, he will show us what would be best to focus on.
    • Prayerful reading of the Sacred Scriptures. Our Lady heard the Word of God and kept it. Martha’s sister Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened and received the better part. There is no reason we cannot find five minutes a day to read the New Testament.
    • Asking God to increase our faith. “Increase my faith” is a perfect prayer in God’s eyes. He is pleased when we do so.
    • Doing good for others. The virtue of faith is united to the virtue of charity. We show we believe in God whom we cannot see by loving the persons around us we can see. All of us have many opportunities every day to serve others and make them happier, whether it is in our family life, school life, friendships, or in the world of work.
    • Making acts of hope. Sometimes we are tempted to give into sadness and to enjoy feeling sorry for ourselves. This is just a sneaky, diabolical way to make us self-centered. A very simple act of hope is the petition from the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil.”
    • Being full-menu Catholics. Rather than being “cafeteria Catholics,” picking and choosing what doctrines of faith or morals we will accept and reject, we embrace all the doctrines of faith and morals that the Church teaches. This requires a serious effort to study the faith, particularly the areas we find more challenging.
    • Embracing weakness. Our weakness need not be any obstacle to faith but can increase it. Thus, a temptation to sadness, an impulse to be selfish, a desire contrary to the moral law, being rejected by another person—these are all opportunities to be humble and to let God’s grace go to work.
      • In these moments, we learn “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” and “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church.”
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