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Homily for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Who do you think you are?"

By Bishop Larry Silva
July 08, 2018

[Immaculate Conception Church, Lihue]

Who do you think you are?

These are words we often hear when someone is acting arrogantly, as if they are better than we are, when we know very well they are just normal people.  When one steps beyond their bounds to correct someone or to call attention to a fault, these words can often be our reaction to that person.  Who do you think you are?

Yet our readings today challenge us to rethink who we think we are, and even to be bold in making that claim.  They speak of the mission that we all have of being prophets, and prophets often say things that people do not necessarily want to hear.

Parents are called to be prophets to their children.  Of course, every parent’s first duty and desire is to love the child, but at times love may involve telling the child something he or she does not want to hear, but something that will be good for them.  “You shouldn’t hang out with those people, because they are just going to bring you down,” may not be something a teen, for example, wants to hear from Mom or Dad, yet if Mom or Dad see that there is a destructive path their child’s friends are going down, would it truly be love to say nothing and to just let a bad situation become even worse?  This, of course, may cause the child to feel resentment, asking the parent, “Who do you think you are?”  But this is the kind of prophecy that is needed to truly love the child.

Teens may need to be prophets to their peers, if they are faithful to their calling as disciples of Jesus.  If someone is mercilessly bullying another person, would it be loving just to look the other way and do nothing about it?  Or would it be more loving to tell a trusted adult about it, to speak to the bully about his or her destructive behavior, or to organize some friends to support the person being bullied?  Surely to take that course would have the bully asking, “Who do you think you are?” and perhaps turning on the person who is trying to address the problem.  But that is the price of being a prophet.  The reward could be saving someone’s life.

Ezekiel was a prophet appointed by God to turn the hearts of the people from a self-destructive disregard for the commandments of God and his covenant of love to a peace they would only find if they turned away from sin and returned to their faith in the true and living God.  God did not assure him success in his endeavor and made it clear that whether the people heeded his message or not, they would know that a prophet had been among them.  The town mates of Jesus are at first impressed with his teachings and his miracles, but then they “put in him in place” by asking “Who do you think you are?”  They knew his relatives and his origins, so who was he to presume that he could be their teacher?  So Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

If we are to be faithful to our mission of evangelization, of sharing the Good News of Jesus with others, we very often have to step out of our comfort zones and risk being put down by others.  If we invite a neighbor to go to Mass with us, perhaps someone who is Catholic but does not regularly practice the faith might wonder “Who do you think you are?  Do you think you are better than I because you go to Mass and I don’t?”  This is a risk we must take if we are to be serious about our mission.  We may be successful, or we may not, but even if we are not, we are in the good company of the prophets of the Lord and of Jesus himself, who were not always successful in accomplishing their goals.  But it is not necessarily success that is the measure of our fidelity to the Lord.  The seeds we plant, even in a heart that is not ready to receive them, may very well grow and blossom much later.

Whether we are addressing the attitude of violence in our community, or trying to reconcile feuding family members; whether we are raising our voices on behalf of the voiceless unborn or trying to stop a pattern of gossip among our friends; whether we confront racism or challenge our youth to live a chaste and joyful life, we are all called to be prophets.  We may be successful or we may not.  Others may very well say indignantly, “Who do you think you are?”  But it is important to always remember who we are:  disciples of Jesus, anointed at our Baptism and Confirmation as priests, prophets, and shepherds, so that through our efforts a sin-sick world can be healed and can know who it really is, beloved of God and worthy of the fullness of the merciful love he has to offer.