30Jan 30 January 2022. Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

30 January 2022. Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

What happened in the Nazareth synagogue can happen today in the church. We may carry prejudices with us into our places of worship, and if we do, we block the message God wants to give us.

1st Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19

Jeremiah is commissioned by God, as a prophet

In the days of Josiah, the word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” But you, gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them. And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land-against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.

Responsorial: Psalm 70:1-6, 15, 17

Response: I will sing of your salvation forever, o Lord

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. (R./)

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. (R./)

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. (R./)

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. (R./)

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

(or, shorter version: 13:4-13, omitting the text in italics)

Paul’s hymn to love, as the highest virtue

But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Gospel: Luke 4:21-30

Jesus shares the fate of prophets, rejected by his own people

Jesus began to say to them in the synagogue, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.


Worship and prejudice

The scene in the synagogue that Sabbath seems pretty disturbing; a people who have come for worship turn angry to the extent of intending to throw Jesus off a cliff. What is it that made them so angered? He had reminded them of a low point in their history, when God punished the people of Israel with a famine, but then saved a Gentile widow. Jesus had also reminded them of God’s mercy towards a Gentile named Naaman. Naturally his message was a shocker and just the opposite of they wanted to hear.

Some truths are often bitter. We too may be angered or agitated when someone (even a preacher?) tells us a truth that we don’t want to hear. Had Jesus glorified the Jews and told them that they were God’s exclusively privileged people, he would probably have received bouquets instead of brickbats, appreciation rather than criticism. But he chose to call a spade a spade.;In effect, Jesus declared that God has no favourites, that there are no privilege cardholders to receiving love and compassion, that all are equal shareholders of God’s love no matter who we are, where we come from and whatever our socio-economic status. We don’t earn divine favour by the titles we hold, but receive it freely from the unconditional love of God for us. In the second reading, St. Paul too speaks of the primacy of love.

What happened in the Nazareth synagogue can happen today in the church. We may carry prejudices with us into our places of worship, and if we do, we block the message God wants to give us. Our prejudice can be against the very priest or preacher who addresses us, against some in the congregation, the choir, the readers or other church helpers, or against the hierarchic Church as such. A prejudiced mind will never sit comfortably in Church and will never find fulfilment in worship or carry the gospel message home.

Mahatma Gandhi during his student days began to read the Gospels and even considered embracing Christianity. He believed that  the teachings of Jesus offered a solution to the caste system that divided the people of India. One Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from knowing Jesus more closely.

Do we take prejudices into our place of worship? Are we prejudiced against individuals or any community? If so, we turn to Jesus for healing we need.

Do We Need prophets?

‘A great prophet has arisen among us’ the people shouted in villages of Galilee, surprised by Jesus’ words and actions. However this isn’t what happens in Nazareth when he appears among his neighbours as the one anointed as Prophet of the poor. Jesus observes first their admiration, and later their rejection. He’s not surprised. He reminds them of a well-known saying: ‘In truth I tell you, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country’. Later, when they throw him out of the town and try to do away with him, Jesus abandons them. The narrator says that ‘he passed straight through the crowd and walked away’. Nazareth is left without the Prophet Jesus.

Jesus is and acts like a prophet. He isn’t a temple priest or a teacher of the law. His life is marked by the prophetic tradition of Israel. In contrast to the kings and priests, the prophet isn’t named or anointed by anyone else. His authority comes from God, insisting on encouraging and guiding the beloved people with God’s Spirit, when the political and religious leaders don’t know how to do that. It’s not by accident that Christians confess a God incarnated as a prophet.

The marks of the prophet are unmistakable. In the middle of an unjust society where the powerful seek their welfare, silencing the suffering of those who mourn, the prophet dares to read and to live reality from the perspective of God’s compassion for the least. His whole life becomes an ‘alternative presence’ that criticizes injustice and calls for conversion and change.

On the other hand, when religion itself gets comfortable with an unjust order and its interests no longer respond to God’s interests, the prophet shakes up our indifference and self-deception, criticizes the illusion of eternity and absolutes that threaten every religion, and remembers all those that God alone saves. His presence introduces a new hope since he invites us to think about the future from the perspective of God’s liberty and love.

A Church that ignores the prophetic dimension of Jesus and his followers, runs the risk of being left without prophets.

  • We bother ourselves a lot about the lack of priests and we pray for vocations to the priestly ministry. Why don’t we pray that God raise up prophets? Don’t we need them? Don’t we feel the need of raising up the prophetic spirit in our communities?
  • A Church without prophets: doesn’t it run the risk of walking deaf to God’s calls to conversion and change?
  • A Christianity without prophetic spirit: isn’t it in danger of remaining controlled by order, tradition and the fear of God’s newness?

Our view of God

A young girl was bent purposefully over her copybook, her pencil poised to draw When her mother asked what she was doing, she said she was drawing a picture.” Of what?” the mother asked. “Of God,” was the answer. “But you can’t draw a picture of God,” her mother declared. “Nobody knows what God looks like.” “Well they will, when I have finished drawing,” replied the girl.

In a sense we could say that Jesus Christ drew for us a picture of what God is like. And because he drew it in his own body, soul and spirit the picture as the reality. Our gospel reading points to a essential element of the reality that is God. God is sovereign; he is not subject to our caprice or prejudice. He is the a God of all peoples; he belongs to all classes; nobody is excluded from his love.

Jesus drew that picture when he bluntly rebuked his townspeople in Nazareth for their rejection of his message. He pointed to unlearned lessons of the past and so indicated that his own mission too would embrace the Gentiles. And so it was. There is about Jesus and his actions a certain universalism. His disciples come from a range of backgrounds; his mission is weighted in favour of the poor and disadvantaged, yet he dines with the powerful and wealthy; his healing ministry benefits both the poor an the powerful, Gentiles and Jews. It is clear that all people from all walks of life and from all nations will be the recipients of God’s saving message.

Yet Jesus’ universalism is never bland. There is always a strong hint of challenge about it. It is never a mere acceptance of the way things and people are. It is a challenge to people to be what God wants them to be his image and likeness; and to live in justice, love and peace. So Jesus will reprimand his disciples for their overweening ambition; and he will constantly call on those who are rich and powerful to become like himself and to be of service to the powerless and poor.

His local neighbours felt that Jesus should show them special preference. The proverb “Physician, heal yourself” is like saying “charity begins at home.” They would not accept that his message was not a gospel of status or privilege. They failed to see that with God charity begins wherever human need is found and when people have a welcoming faith to receive it. Jesus came to preach the good news about the mercy of God to those open to receive it. The challenge to us is to have an idea about God based on what Jesus taught about Him. Our impression of God should also have an effect on our daily living. God’s grace is not for a small, exclusive circle, and salvation is intended for all people everywhere. If we were to draw our picture of God, let’s hope that it would be recognisably the same as what Jesus taught.

Ár ndearcadh i leith Dé

Bhí muintear a shráid-bhaile dúchais den tuairim go mba chóir d’Íosa mór is fiú a dhéanamh dóibh. “A Dhoctúir aimsigh leigheas duit féin” is sean rá é sin atá an-chosúil le tús áite don bhaile agus tú ag dáileadh leigheas. Diúltaíodar glacadh leis nár soiscéal don uasal aicme amháin a bhí sa scéala a leag sé os a gcomhair. Níor ghlacadar leis go n-eascrann grá Dé pé áit in a bhfuil gá agus daoine ullamh glacadh leis go lán chroích. Tháinig Íosa chun dea-scéal ghrá Dé a fhoillsiú dóibh siúd atá réidh fáilte a chur roimhe. Maidir linne ní mór dúinn bheith oilte ar theagasc Íosa i leith Dia an tAthair. Ní mór don dearcadh san i leith Dé dul i bhfeidhm ar ár saol laethúil. Nil grásta Dé teoranta do scata beag daoine agus tá an slánú ag dul do gach éinne cuma cé hiad nó cá bhfuil cónáí orthu. Da mbeadh sé de dhualgas orainn portráid Dé a chur ar fáil, déanfaimís deimhin de gur fíor-chosúlacht an Tiarna atá ann. (Aistrithe ag an tAth. Uinseann, OCSO)

One Response

  1. Thara Benedicta

    Readings 30 January 2022 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

    Key Message:
    Never fear opposition, face opposition!!


    The Takeaway from the First Reading:
    Jeremiah’s mission was to be a prophet of God. God called him a prophet when he was in his mother’s womb. We read that God mentioned the purpose of his life when he was in his mother’s womb. When God called Jeremiah, initially he resisted out of fear. So God motivated him as we read in today’s first reading: “They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you”. With God’s motivation, Jeremiah accepted to take up this tough job.

    The same happens in our lives too. God had prepared the purpose of our life and called us accordingly when we were in our mother’s womb. Our aim is to fulfil our life’s mission.

    When Jeremiah refused God’s call, God did not leave him alone. He gave Jeremiah all the motivation he required to come out of the fear zone. Jeremiah also trusted God and walked in His ways.

    We may have refused to walk God’s plan for us. But no need to shy away from God because we did not do our part properly. No need to feel bad thinking about what God will think about us. God does not call us by the name of the sin we have committed, but He calls by the name of our mission which He had planned for us. Like how God persisted in motivating Jeremiah to go forward in his mission, He is also motivating us to complete the mission in our life.

    God accepts us as we are. When God called Jeremiah for His job, Jeremiah did not say immediately “Yes Lord”. Jeremiah brought all his fearful thoughts in front of God and citing them, he told God that he is not fit for this job. But God chose him. God chooses the one whom the world did not consider.

    When people reject us, let us remember that we are God’s choice.

    The Takeaway from the Second Reading:
    The Apostle Paul teaches us that love should be the foremost priority in our prayer list. Love is more important than the gift of tongues or prophetic power or interpretation of the gift of tongues or any other gift. Even if we give away all that we have, with some other motive and not out of love, then it is useless in front of Almighty God. Most of us find it easier to follow the first commandment than the second commandment from Jesus, though both are based on love. We find it easier to love God than to love others. As the Apostle Peter says, “Love covers a multitude of sins”. Forgiving those who are hurting us and blessing them from our heart, requires real love.

    Many times we miss a sense of fulfilment in our good works, because we do it as our bounded duty, missing the love part. So when we are not appreciated or recognized for our good works, it demotivates us. When we give to others thinking “Lord Jesus, bless them with happiness and joy”, without calculating our return gifts from God, we give out of love. Love not only blesses others, but it makes God bless the one who loves. Focussing on being a blessing will bring us blessings. Our Love-works pleads to God on behalf of us.

    We see an example in the Bible, Luke 7:4-6:
    “The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.”
    The love-works of the centurion pleaded to our Lord Jesus on behalf of him and Jesus immediately went with them.

    Our love-works are our powerful intercessors!!

    The Takeaway from the Gospel Reading:
    In today’s Gospel reading, our Lord Jesus was not accepted by the people of His hometown. They were planning to push Him from the cliff.
    Again we see similar experiences of our Lord Jesus in Mark 6:4-6, “Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith”.

    In all these cases, we see that the rebellious attitude of people can push even God away from them. On one side, these people go to the synagogue and pray for the coming of Almighty God and on the other side, when God comes to visit them, they send Him away. They plead for miracles, and when Jesus comes to do miracles, He is not able to do miracles because they do not believe in Him. Praying without faith will have no power.

    Are we also rebelling against God and His graces?

    Tips to Do the Takeaways:

    1. From the first reading, we learn how to motivate our children, friends, and family members. Jeremiah is full of fear when God assigns Him big responsibilities. First, God our Father listens to the fears of Jeremiah and then strengthens Him. Finally, God assures His presence with Jeremiah by saying, “I am with you”. This assurance we should also give to our own people in distress. It can make our kids come out of their addiction, will boost their confidence. People will not go into depression if they have someone say these words to them. Our Lord Jesus said that we are the light of the world. We can bring light to someone’s life by saying, “I am with you”.

    2. When our Lord Jesus was chased by His own people, He never got wild at them. Like our Lord Jesus, we too may face more opposition from our own people than other people. Our children may have a rebelling attitude, which is painful to bear.
    Our Lord Jesus Christ provides us tips on how to handle rebellious children/people:
    a. Do not shout back at them – When His own people tried to push him down from the cliff, Jesus never shouted back at them.
    b. Get away from that place – Jesus just walked through the crowd away from the crowd. It is better to go away from that place. We will not be able to fix their rebellious attitude in those moments.
    c. Stay calm – Jesus was surprised at their lack of faith and was not able to perform many miracles. Their attitude stopped them from receiving any graces and miracles from our Lord Jesus. Though our Lord Jesus was surprised, He still stayed calm.
    d. Do not continue thinking about the pains – Our Jesus continued His ministry with other people. He did not stop to think how rude His people behaved. He did not talk about it to His disciples. He went on with His ministry as per His plan.

    3. When there was a good king, Jeremiah enjoyed a good life. His life was easy since there was nothing to confront the king. When there was a bad king, Jeremiah’s life became difficult as he had to confront the bad kings. We should not confront good kings and cause them problems unnecessarily. We see such happenings in the world nowadays. Confronting bad kings requires courage. Our good kings can be our education, office work, family, etc. Our bad kings can be our different kinds of addictions, people problems, etc. With the help of God, we should confront them.

    There is no one who is perfect enough to be chosen by God. There is no one who is weak enough to be rejected by God.

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