Jesus Our Shepherd

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homily for 09 July 2006
Fr. Robert Weiss

“Dem Bones, Dem Bones, dem Dry Bones!” We older ones remember the Fred Waring glee club first singing this age-old spiritual in the ‘40s. Ezechiel, its ultimate author, also called “The Father of Judaism,” was a prophet sent to Israel almost as a modern-day whistleblower. Ezechiel was good at using stark imagery to get his message across – in this case “dead bones” coming to life again as a sign of God’s renewing Israel.

Nathan, a severe social critic, was the prophet who addressed King David about his adultery with Basheba, wife of Uriah. David ultimately acknowledged his sin and repented, but suffered and lost his beloved children. His sorrow is well expressed in the many psalms he composed.

St. Paul also, with many insights into the “Good News” Jesus preached, was a prophet, albeit one suffering in his body so that he might not become too pompous, so convinced was he of his message. He knew the power of his words was not due to him but to Jesus; his sufferings were a reminder of this.

In the Gospel we find a thought-provoking passage. As background, in the Jewish tradition, every father has three goals to attain for his son: to teach him a trade, to steep him in the knowledge of the Torah (the Jewish Old Testament), and to help him get a wife. Anthony Padovano, a married priest and theologian, wrote an interesting thesis on this three-fold cultural responsibility of a Jewish father.

Joseph the carpenter was a good father figure for Jesus in that as his first goal he taught Jesus the trade of carpentry. Then in the synagogue, Joseph’s ingraining of the Torah in Jesus resulted in the astonishment of his listeners who admired his knowledge and insights, but dismissed them as unacceptable because they came from a carpenter.

In the Gospel, Jesus refers to himself as a prophet that is not listened to, primarily by people of power in control of the institutions of government and Temple. These people in authority dismissed Jesus and impugned his motives. That is the fate of most prophets.

The third goal of a Jewish father was to help his son marry a good woman. This has become the stuff of the DaVinci Code. I’ve read the book twice, read two critiques of the book and attended a seminar on this topic. Dan Brown’s thesis regarding Mary Magdala should get us to begin to rethink the Scriptures, Church history, basic teachings on human sexuality and marriage, among other things.

Of course we also have to re-examine the reference to “the brothers and sisters” of Jesus appearing in the Scriptures. Traditional Church teaching is that they were “cousins” of Jesus, but this is heavily disputed. The book and the movie, as well as our sources of knowledge, might get us to rethink the family life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph!