4th Sunday C 2013
Today’s Gospel reading begins with the last verse from last Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus is in his home town synagogue. He reads from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me....” and then concludes that “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus affirms that the day of salvation has arrived. The people are at first enthralled by Him. They did not expect this. Usually, one of the learned men, usually a scribe, would get up, proclaim the scripture, and then make his comments. But the carpenter’s son? The people had heard that Jesus had performed miracles in other towns and villages, but were those not just stories? To act like He was a learned man was too much for them. And worse still, He pointed the scripture to Himself. They rejected Him because He was too familiar to them. They knew His father, Joseph. They knew His family.
But Jesus did not go elsewhere because he was rejected in Nazareth; rather, he extended himself and his message to all because it was God’s will for him to do so. Jesus followed his comment about prophets not being accepted in their native place with references from the Books of Kings regarding the faith and willing acceptance of Israel’s God by two foreigners and non-Jews, the widow of Sidonand Naaman the Syrian. God’s concerns, as revealed in Jesus, are universal and all-inclusive. Jesus never diluted his message concerning the universal and salvific concerns of God. He challenged his Jewish brothers and sisters to believe, and offer their entire being as their response to a God who calls forth the best in each of us.
Jeremiah shares his vocational experience in today’s first reading, called to leave family, friends and the joys of his youth to speak an unpopular message. Judah’s princes, priests and people were uninterested and often hostile. With God’s call, Jeremiah received all he would need to minister as God’s prophet. God assured the prophet that He was the one who initiated this relationship: “I formed you,” “I knew you,” “I consecrated you,” “I appointed you,” “I command you,” “I am with you.” In the same way, God assures each of us and supports us so that we can faithfully answer the call God extends to each of us.
We are, as John the Baptist, the voice. Christ is the Word. Often in our desire to be accepted, we find ourselves adjusting what we say to what our audience will accept. Announcing the message of the Gospel is not undertaken for the sake of being accepted, but in order to be faithful to God's word.
It takes courage to declare the truth to someone without considering if this would lead to their rejecting us. Jesus was not afraid to proclaim the truth. He held onto the truth and through the power of the truth “he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”
We have to have the courage to confront our fear of rejection by our peers. This is a step that each of us could take as baptized and confirmed Christians. Perhaps we might think, “If I were to say to the people that the type of party they’ve invited me to is wrong and incompatible with my following the Lord, they will laugh at me, or ostracize me, and perhaps throw me into oblivion.”
Well, maybe we need to pass through their midst and find other friends if truth cannot be spoken. Living the Truth of God is more important than being part of a crowd. If the truth is spoken in love, it has the power to save. St. John says in one of his letters, “He wills to bring us to life through a word spoken in truth.” There are members of that crowd who will be challenged with the voice that boldly proclaims the truth. The truth resonates in the depth of our souls.
But the prophet—someone who comes along with a new way of thinking or a radical idea which undermines our established way of thinking is not easily embraced. The Old Testament Prophets were usually ignored or vilified by the religious establishment because they had a new perspective on God’s love.
The main difficulty is in discerning the true prophet from the false one. And so we can easily understand how authorities instinctively reject all prophets.
The religious people reject the Gospel again and again because Christ treats everyone the same. He has no privileged group; he has no favorites. The Gospel is for everyone. God loves us all irrespective of our race, creed or status.
The prophet differs from the critic, for the prophet speaks out of love for the other and in awareness of his own human weakness.
Although there are several Greek words for love, it is significant that the word Paul, in his beautiful hymn to love, chose to use in this passage is agape. This is not the sexual love of eros; nor is it philia, which denotes affection based on friendship. Agape is a more general term that does not necessarily stem from a mutual relationship; rather, agape connotes a love and respect for another regardless of shared affection or personal attraction. Agape is the manner in which God loves, and those created in God’s image are called to love in the same way.
After personifying agape as patient, kind, enduring, unfailing, etc., Paul addressed the transition that will mark every believer’s journey from childhood to adulthood, from this world to the next. Other gifts are temporary and unnecessary in the life to come, faith will become sight, hope will be fulfilled but love will last. Love never fails. It is this agape love that motivates the prophet to speak to even his enemies with a deep respect and genuine concern for their wellbeing.
The prophet enters into the everyday questions of everyday life and allows the word of truth to illumine the path forward. The prophet is not just the teacher of commandments that served us in the past but motivated by the solid principles of truth and justice, emboldened by prayer and reflection, sheds light on a present dilemma. We who are prophets by our baptism, invited to Agape love, reflecting in prayer and discussion are called to grapple with controversial issues like:
- Methadone treatment for heroin addicts and harm reduction (Insite)
- RedeemerPacificCollegeestablishing a LawSchool
- Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline/ Kinder Morgan Pipeline
- Abbottsford Farmer placing a couple thousand white crosses on private land to symbolize the number of abortions every week in Canada
- The path to holiness for a homosexual person
- (Join our Lenten Discussion group)