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Sunday, February 3, 2019

A Homily – The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)


First Reading - Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19 ©
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 70(71):1-6,15,17 ©
Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 ©
Alternative Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 ©
Gospel Acclamation – John 14:6
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 4:18
The Gospel of Luke 4:21-30 ©
(NJB)


Consider the words of the prophet Jeremiah and know this: it is always a theological mistake to weave nationalism into the fabric of our myths. God, the creator of the universe, God is not the god of this nation or that, God does not favor one people over another. God is the God of all people, the just and the unjust, the good and the bad.

Allow the prophet to speak to us through his error.

There are errors throughout the scriptures, do not be surprised that I say this. The disciples themselves did not hesitate to include the record of their errors in the sacred text; consider the error of Adam, in the Garden, or Abraham with Isaac; consider the many faults of Israel, both the Patriarch and the people, consider the denial of Saint Peter.

Consider that and know this:   

The psalmist is wrong today. It is an exercise in pure vanity to assume that God has anything to do with the things we suffer on earth.

It is not in God’s plan, or in God’s way of being to intervene in our lives at all.

Punishment does not come from God, neither should we look to God for rescue.

The joys and sorrows of the world, the things we experience are altogether of our own making. Our successes are not rewards for having lived a good life, our failures and setbacks are not retributions and punishments for leading a bad one.

Your enemies are only your enemies if you believe them to be so. God loves them as much as God loves you.

If you forgive them in your heart you will cease to be their enemy. Pray that they will see this, and they may forgive you as well, thereby ceasing to be yours.

This is the truth, and truth is best expressed by itself, without regard to any other concern.

Do not preach about the chosen people or the covenant, about the church and the temple, do not preach on the law, the liturgy or the sacred rites, do not even preach on the crucifixion and the resurrection, if your preaching is not distilled through the lens of love.

Speak about love, do it in a loving way. Love is the law, and it is the content of our faith.

Remember this, and be mindful of it always:

Love is the way to God, there is no other path to the creator of the universe; God is love, and the opposite is true; we experience the absence of love as alienation from God.

There be loving, and those who you care for will find God through the expression of love in your faith and hope for them.

Listen to the Apostle, follow him in this:

Be patient with your sisters and brothers, be kind to the stranger, love, as Jesus did, even your enemy, and forgive them; whatever it is you have held against them, forgive it.

Let go.

There is no conceit, no jealously, no boasting in loving, we are not rude or selfish, in love we are not uncompromising.

Do not take offence, and do not be resentful if you have failed at loving, if you have been jealous and boasting, conceited or impatient in any way; if you feel inadequate now, be at peace, forgive yourself.

Know this:

Everyone falls short and loves imperfectly, but do this; desire what is true and walk away from the lie; be ready to trust, even in the face of adversity, because trust is faith, it is an act of the will, and when we have made the decision to trust, we have prepared the way for hope to flourish, and hope will allows us to endure what comes.

Hope in its turn frees us to love, and love returns us to the place of faith, strengthening it.

This is a cycle of empowerment, chose it for yourselves.

Listen to the wisdom of the Saint Paul, reflect back on our reflection on Jeremiah and psalmist:

The role of the prophet is not to predict the future, it is to point out injustice.

The role of the prophet is to teach us, if we do not know how or why injustice is taking place.

If we lack the language or the voice to express our understanding, the prophet will be our voice, and point out our duty to reach out to our sisters and brothers in love, so that when they are suffering see it, understand it, and comfort them.

Remember this:

The Gospels are replete with stories that depict the ignorance of Jesus’ twelve male disciples.

They were human beings and like all of us they were flawed, confused, and ignorant.

Jesus even refers to Saint Peter as “Satan,” the enemy, and on the night of Jesus’ arrest Peter denies having known him.

In the generations that followed the death of Jesus, the early Christians did not gain any more clarity, as John’s Gospel shows us.

Jesus is not “The Way,” but the manner of his life demonstrated the way, not the “way to” God, but the “way of God,” as Saint Paul taught us, the way of love, and hope, and trust.

Know this when you go out to preach on the Gospel:

The good news is not that God has prepared a place for you and yours, for the Jewish people that were the brothers and sisters of Jesus or for the Christians who came later. The good news is that God has prepared a place for everyone.

This is the really good news, no one is left out of God’s plan.

Following the “way” of Jesus does not require you to believe or know anything about him, it requires only that you to live a life of kindness, and loving service to your fellow human beings.

This is the beauty of God’s plan.

The purpose of the gospel is to give comfort to the poor, and to free those who are in bondage. If you are a teacher of the faith and your ministry is not pointed to this end, then you are failing in your duty.

Do not quit, repent!

Listen!

If you use the words of Jesus to shame the poor or to justify ignoring them, if you mistreat the prisoner, or anyone who is in captivity,  the man or woman in bondage, than you are doing the work of someone else, and you have abandoned Christ.

If you have done these things do not give up your ministry, ask for forgiveness, and reform yourself.

Consider how the gospel for today illustrates the very same theme we have encountered since the beginning of the reading with Jeremiah.

There is a pattern in the gospel narrative that plays itself out through all four of the books.

The pattern is this; the people who purportedly know Jesus best, understand his mission least. He is best understood by the marginalized, the stranger, the outcast and the voiceless.

Those who are best acquainted with Jesus, the people of his home town, the disciples, Saint Peter--chief among them; they were quick and eager to accept him, but were confounded and left bewildered when Jesus did or said something unexpected.

The reading for today comes to us near the beginning of Luke’s narrative and it highlights this dilemma. In the first paragraph the disciples are delighted by Jesus and love the things he says, but Jesus discerns something in them that causes him to change his tone, he cautions them; he gives them a warning.

He reminds them of how quick people are to turn against the ones they love and revere, to turn against their leaders and prophets as they did in the past with Elijah and Elisha.

The warning is stern, the blessings of God will not flow if you are only looking after your own interests, and if you are uncaring about the interests of your neighbor, of the alien, the out cast and the stranger.

Jesus teaches us that justice and mercy, love and hope, these things flow from God only insofar as they flow from the human heart, we are God’s agents in the world, the divine relies on us to carry out this work, and without us the work will not get done.

This is not quid pro quo.

God is not in the business of matching our contribution, our gifts of compassion are God’s gifts of compassion; human agency is the only path by which God enters the lives of other human beings.

If we are not doing the good work of God, the good work will not get done.

The people of Jesus’ village mistook the power that Jesus had; the power to heal and restore and the fame that was gathering around him, as something belonging to them, something they had a right to, something to use for themselves, and because of this self-interest they were not able to receive it at that time.

In the same way, Jesus’ disciples continuously misunderstood Jesus’ ministry. They chastised him for talking to women, for eating with outsiders, and they abandoned him on the night he was arrested. Saint Peter, the rock of the Church, denied him publicly. They all fled, all except a handful of women who remained by his side until the very end, and past the end point for days they waited for him.

They waited until the tomb was opened.

Most Christians today are in the same position as the townsfolk of Nazareth were at the time Jesus delivered this teaching, believing that being a Christian gives them some special status in the world, as if God loves them more than God loves any of God’s other children.

They believe that God will reach down and save them, just because they baptized (or some such nonsense) while letting billions of others drop off into the lake of fire.

People who believe this could not be more wrong.

The only thing you receive from being a follower of Christ is the burden of responsibility to love your neighbor as God loves them, to love them as you love God.
This is the way of Jesus, in the tradition of Isaiah and carried on by the Apostle in his ministry to the gentiles. It is the true mission of the Church and it is the duty of all Christians to proclaim it.

Love one another.  


First Reading - Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19 ©

'I have appointed you prophet to the nations'

In the days of Josiah, the word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying:

‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.

‘So now brace yourself for action.

Stand up and tell them all I command you.

Do not be dismayed at their presence, or in their presence I will make you dismayed.

‘I, for my part, today will make you into a fortified city, a pillar of iron, and a wall of bronze to confront all this land:

the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests and the country people.

They will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you – it is the Lord who speaks.’


Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 70(71):1-6,15,17 ©

My lips will tell of your help.

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
  let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, free me:
  pay heed to me and save me.

My lips will tell of your help.

Be a rock where I can take refuge,
  a mighty stronghold to save me;
  for you are my rock, my stronghold.
Free me from the hand of the wicked.

My lips will tell of your help.

It is you, O Lord, who are my hope,
  my trust, O Lord, since my youth.
On you I have leaned from my birth,
  from my mother’s womb you have been my help.

My lips will tell of your help.

My lips will tell of your justice
  and day by day of your help.
O God, you have taught me from my youth
  and I proclaim your wonders still.

My lips will tell of your help.


Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 ©

The Supremacy of Charity

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.

In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.


Alternative Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 ©

Three Things Last: Faith, Hope and Love; and the Greatest of These is Love

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

 Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.

In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.


Gospel Acclamation – John 14:6

Alleluia, alleluia!

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says the Lord;
No one can come to the Father except through me.

Alleluia!


Gospel Acclamation – Luke 4:18

Alleluia, alleluia!

The Lord has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives.

Alleluia!


Gospel - Luke 4:21-30 ©

No Prophet is Ever Accepted in His Own Country

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue: ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

  But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

  ‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

  When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away. (NJB)

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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