Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time January 31, 2015
Reading 1 Jer 1:4-5, 17-19
Responsorial Psalm Ps 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17
Reading 2 1 Cor 12:31—13:13
Alleluia Lk 4:18
- Alleluia, alleluia. The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Lk 4:21-30
Homily— January 29 & 30, 2016
What is a prophet? Contrary to our image of prophets as fortunetellers or predictors of future events, a prophet is an individual who speaks for another. In our case, a prophet is one who speaks for God.
The biblical scholar, the late Raymond Brown, in speaking to a group of priests over 40 years ago said, “No biblical prophet ever predicted the coming of Jesus as we know Jesus.” When we find such predictions, we’ve basically put them there ourselves by interpreting the prophetic text. It is unlikely the prophet originally intended to say what we, through the centuries, hear him or her say. By removing that assumption, we can restore and appreciate the prophets in their own historical contexts.
Prophets normally aren’t in the business of predicting the future. Their ministry revolves around confronting, not predicting. When they do mention the future it is to provide us with the future implications of our present actions. Mom was a prophet when she would tell us to stop our playing before someone gets hurt and too often we would continue playing until someone did get hurt.
Jeremiah wanted no part of being a prophet. His best excuse was that he was too young; however God was not taking excuses. Prophets almost never tell us anything new. Interestingly, both Jeremiah and Jesus simply stated the obvious. They told people what they already knew. In so doing however, they set people at war within themselves. Jesus did not set people against each other. He set them against the Scriptures; he set them against their own conscience. Jesus made them see themselves as they were, and they became angry. None of us like to have our faults and sins pointed out to us—it’s bad enough that anyone has seen them, let alone called attention to them.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus, as a prophet, faces a similar fate. Though both Mark and Matthew narrate Jesus’ conflict with his hometown synagogue members, only Luke carries it to the point where “they rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.”
What prompted such violence? Jesus simply reminded them of something every Jew was supposed to know but didn’t like to admit: God is the Lord of all people, not just Jews.
In the second reading Paul speaks to us about love. Love is the experience of being intended, wanted, cared for and known. It is not just the prophet Jeremiah whose life was intended by God before he was born and who was called by God as a boy to fulfill a specific vocation. Each of us has been called forth by the love of God who wills us into being and who intends for us to remain in the presence of God’s love for eternity. Love is the essence of God’s being and so the true intention for each of our lives.
Take some time and reread the Bible selections for today. How are you being called to be a prophet, to tell the truth? Can you love according to the description of love given by St. Paul? “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrong-doing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.’
I wish that I could love like that and at all times. In the meantime I ask God’s forgiveness for my failures and strive to do better. Confession can be humbling but I leave with a real sense of appreciation for God’s mercy upon me which is a reminder to share it with those who come to me for the forgiveness of their sins too.