Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Jeremiah is the source of this weekend’s first reading. Regarded as one of the major Hebrew prophets because of the extent of his recorded writings, and the brilliance with which he wrote, Jeremiah descended from priests. He was from a small village, Anathoth, only a few miles away from Jerusalem.
As was usual for prophets, Jeremiah was not universally popular, to say the least, among his contemporaries. His prophecies drew sharp rebukes. Critics accused him of blasphemy, a crime that had death as its punishment in the Hebrew code of law. It was this tradition that centuries later led to some of the demands for the crucifixion of Jesus.
Despite the rejections and denunciations based on falsehoods, Jeremiah never paused in his prophetic mission of insisting upon faithfulness to God and of demanding loyalty to God as a personal, and national, imperative. Furthermore, despite all the criticisms, he never doubted that he was on a mission from God.
When God called Jeremiah to the mission of prophets, during the reign of King Josiah, who ruled the Kingdom of Judah from 640 to 609 B.C., God told Jeremiah to be prepared for hostile responses to Jeremiah’s prophesying.
As its second reading for this weekend, the Church offers us a passage from the First Epistle to the Corinthians. It is one of the loveliest, and best known, sections of the entire corpus of Pauline literature. It is a beautiful explanation of love, and few better definitions of love, this ability unique to humans in nature, exist in human literature. It is clear and straightforward.
Paul reveals what happens when a person embraces the Gospel. Imperfections fade away. Knowledge increases. Maturity is reached. The insecurities and smallness of youth pass.
St. Luke’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. Jesus, as the story states, appears in the synagogue in Nazareth. In earlier verses, not part of this weekend’s reading, Jesus stands to read a section of the Book of Isaiah. In this section, Isaiah recalled his own calling to be a prophet. He gives details as to what this calling meant. It meant that he was God’s spokesman, sent by God to bring liberty to the oppressed, hope to the poor and sight to the blind.
Then, continuing, in the passage read this weekend, Jesus declared that this prophecy had now been fulfilled. In other words, Jesus is the long-awaited spokesman of God.
At first, the audience is impressed, but then Jesus recalled an incident, mentioned in the Old Testament, in which God showed mercy to gentiles. This mention of divine favor for anyone outside the Chosen People infuriated the audience in the synagogue so much that they tried to murder Jesus. He, of course, escaped.
The readings very much put us, as humans, in our place. It is a place that we do not readily acknowledge. We are quite limited, as a human race, and as individual humans, in our ability to perceive and to judge. Thus it was with the contemporaries of Jeremiah. Thus it was with the persons whom Jesus offended in the synagogue.
We also occupy another place: a place of intimate bonding with Jesus, of receiving eternal life through Christ. The mysteries revealed in the liturgies of Christmas, Epiphany and the Lord’s Baptism proclaimed that God has not left us to our doom. He supplies what we lack because of our limitation. He gives us strength. He gives us Jesus, the light of the world.
As the Gospel says, no one is beyond God’s mercy, but we must do our part. We must love others, with love as pure and unquailed as that described by Paul.
Salvation is not imposed upon us. We must accept Jesus into our hearts.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.