14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year B

Seek humility, pursue it diligently, and cling to the Lord: whatever comes your way, his grace is enough.

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First Reading: Ezekiel 2:2-5

  • The Holy Spirit can be enigmatic in the Bible, not being clearly portrayed until Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit and even more so in the Acts of the Apostles. However, there are instances of the Spirit’s presence and activity in the Old Testament: this is one example.
  • The voice of the Lord acknowledges to Ezekiel that some will listen whereas some may not: what does this say about how we evangelise and how we receive God’s word?

Psalm: 122(123)

  • This psalm is punctuated again and again by references to sight, or eyes. The psalmist is calling us to keep our attention firmly on the Lord. Remember that in the Old Testament, God is not seen, and visual representations are forbidden by the Ten Commandments. This is revolutionised by the coming of Christ in the Incarnation, as a visible, tangible human being.
  • In what ways are our own lives filled with the scorn of the rich and the proud man’s disdain? Are there subtle ways in which this is manifested?

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

  • Have a read over the previous sections of 2 Corinthians; which revelations is Paul directly referring to? Why might they make him proud?
  • Pleading with the Lord three times doesn’t necessarily mean three distinct, discreet times; but is a Hebrew way of expressing persistence. There can be a fine line between persistent praying for a certain good or certain situation and accepting that the Lord’s answer might be “no”. How do we navigate that line?

Gospel: Mark 6:1-6

  • Nazareth was a very small town, much smaller than Capernaum where most of Jesus’ time had been spent in his ministry. It was likely that most, if not all the people knew him.
  • The Church teaches that Mary was perpetually a virgin; how then are we to read the references here to Jesus’ brothers and sisters? There are a number of possibilities put forward by different figures in Church history: they could have been step-brothers or sisters, if St. Joseph had been married and widowed before becoming betrothed to Mary. Or, the Greek word translated here can equally mean family members such as cousins. Either way, this passage doesn’t undermine the Church’s teaching on Mary’s virginity.
  • Notice that Jesus is referred to not as the “son of the carpenter” (Joseph) but simply as “the carpenter”. This is perhaps the clearest indication in the New Testament that Jesus worked a trade before beginning his public ministry, and presumably earned a reputation sufficient to be known as “the carpenter”.


Paul speaks in this passage of 2 Corinthians about his experience of a “thorn in the flesh” – we don’t know what he meant by that, but if the specifics mattered he probably would’ve told us. The important thing is he had some kind of physical discomfort, which was given to him to prevent him from becoming arrogant.

He goes on to say that it was an “angel of Satan”. So it could be that Paul was experiencing some kind of spiritual oppression, which he linked to a physical illness or weakness.

It’s interesting, though, that Paul says the purpose that this was allowed by God was to prevent him from becoming “conceited” as the ESV has it, or from “getting too proud” in the Jerusalem version. This problem, whatever it was, reminded Paul constantly of his human weakness, his inability to do things by himself.

Let’s not forget that this is the same Paul who was mistaken for the Greek god Hermes by the people of Lystra (you can read that story in Acts). Paul also tells us that he preached the gospel with power and with manifestations of the Holy Spirit. He was an apostle, who had tackled even Peter when he was in the wrong. But, most of all, as Paul says here, he had been privileged to receive revelations from and of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Taking these together it would be easy to see how Paul might have been tempted to think well of himself, of all that he had achieved and witnessed. After all, it must have been intoxicating to be mistaken for a god!

God, then, permitted this discomfort in Paul’s life to keep him humble. This has been God’s way since the beginning: he works most powerfully through outwardly weak and broken instruments. Think of his choosing of Jacob over Esau, of Gideon, of the shepherd boy David, of the poor betrothed Virgin Mary.

The Lord explained this to Paul: “My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness.”

As I write this, the UK is going through a general election, the results of which you will have heard on Friday by the time you read this. Politicians do their utmost to conceal their weaknesses from the public. There can be no U-Turns, nothing but conviction and a project of confident strength. When asked if they’re ready for the job, the candidates say: “yes!” without a moment’s hesitation.

This isn’t the way of humility that Paul outlines for us here. Imagine a politician who made their weaknesses their “special boast” as Paul speaks of. Would they lose their seat if they did act as Paul acted? Would you be attracted to their character if they did speak openly of their failings?

But this is also true of each one of us, as well, of course. Do we hide our weaknesses? Do we try to project confident strength in our jobs, relationships, when we’re simply out and about?

There’s a pitfall here. It’s not about avoiding fixing our problems. We should try, just as Paul tried to get rid of his thorn in the flesh. Sometimes it’s God’s will to do just that: he can heal us, either miraculously as we read of Jesus doing in the gospel today, or through natural means or medical intervention.

If, though, God’s answer when we ask is “no” – it’s not simply a refusal, it’s a reminder that the struggle we endure is designed to work for us an exceeding weight of glory, to go back to Paul’s discussions earlier in this letter.

In any case, God is good and kind and merciful. He gives us what is enough for us and tends us carefully to ensure that we grow and thrive.

So seek humility, pursue it diligently, and cling to the Lord: whatever comes your way, his grace is enough.


  • Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1505: redemptive suffering
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2559: humility and prayer
  • The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 7: on humility