4th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Liberators Will Be Persecuted.”
Today the liturgy of the Word give us two examples of people faithful to their mission: Jeremiah and Jesus, two prophets who found themselves in similar situations and who had come to announce unwelcome ‘Truths’ to their listeners.
The first reading tells us about the vocation of Jeremiah. God, knowing the difficulties he would be confronting, encouraged him to keep as steady as an iron pillar, like a bronze wall.
The second reading describes the charism of ‘Love’ which can be linked to the theme of this Sunday because the Christian is a prophet of love, and for love he risks rejection and even persecution.
The Gospel describes the rejection of another prophet, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, by his own villagers, who were annoyed by his behaviour and by his message.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19.
Jeremiah wasn’t even twenty when the Lord called him to be a prophet. He was a good youth, open-minded and intelligent. His intentions were to marry and lead a peaceful life in his village of Anatot, the village of his forefathers. Even before his conception in the womb of his mother, God had already chosen him for a very difficult and risky mission: to proclaim his word to kings, leaders, and priests and to the whole people of God. How will the life of Jeremiah turn out? A string of successes? Not at all! Even the most pleasant and likeable people, when they start being prophets, are immediately shunned, disliked, and looked upon as unbearable. Why? It is because they see the world through new eyes – the eyes of God and cannot keep quiet at the sight of injustice and abuses of power; thus they openly denounce oppressions, unmask the powerful, who steal, as well as those who perpetrate deeds of violence and lead people to ruin.
In the verses that follow in the biblical text, Jeremiah protests that he is not equipped to be a prophet. The Lord replies by assuring the young man that he would have the strength he needed given to him from the Lord and shows him an overview of the message he would ask him to deliver. These verses (1:6-16) are omitted in the Lectionary reading. In the second part of the reading, God reveals to Jeremiah what will happen to him. He does not deceive him and does not promise him an easy life. He will be, he says, like a soldier continually pursued by his enemies, like a fortress besieged by a bloody army. The reading ends with words of consolation. The Lord tells Jeremiah: “They will fight against you, but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue you”. This Old Testament reading seems to have been chosen to correspond to this Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke 4:21-30) on two counts. The first is that the ministries of both Jesus and Jeremiah were directed not just to their own countrymen, but to all nations of the world. The second is that both the prophet and the Messiah are under the protection of God the Father.
Because they are ministers of God’s Word, God sees to it that the hostility that is directed at them will not be the end. God cares for them throughout their ministries, and even though both die ignominious deaths, their mission lives on, Jeremiah’s in the inspired Word of God and Jesus’ in the risen life that all his followers now share. Tradition tells us that Jeremiah was taken by force to Egypt where he spent the rest of his life. He was eventually murdered by his fellow Jews. Jeremiah prophesied against the many abuses he saw among his people for which he was soundly snubbed and ruthlessly rejected. Rejection is common in the lives of those who stand up for righteousness and the truth. Undaunted, Jeremiah continued to speak out.
Psalm 71:1-6, 15, 17.
The Psalm is a lament of one who has spent a lifetime in God’s service, even, like Jeremiah, from his mother’s womb. God’s constant fidelity enables the speaker of the truth to endure times of persecution and rejection.
1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:13.
The ‘Hymn of Love’ in 1 Corinthians is the best known of all Paul’s writings. First, he contrasts love to other spiritual gifts that were eagerly sought after in Corinth. Without love, these were all useless for the community. He picks out two qualities that mark love, it is patience and kindness.
He lists eight vices incompatible with it. Finally, he emphasizes its’ permanence. It is part of the fullness of Christianity. Love will always exist. God will never be without it. God is love! The passage is a barometer to test the quality of any Christian life. Christ is its best personification. For Christians, it is the key to the Kingdom of God. The second reading reminds us to continue loving those who reject us with a love ‘that is not boastful or arrogant or rude’. That is the kind of love Jesus expressed on the Cross when he prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Only love can conquer people who reject those sent by God.
Today’s Gospel continues the teachings of last Sunday. Jesus is in Nazareth and after reading from Isaiah 61 and 58, he gains the approval of his people with regard to his plan of action. However, when he obliges them to enlarge their horizons beyond the boundaries of Israel as the prophets Elijah and Elisha had forced their contemporaries to do, their moods suddenly change.
Their rejection escalates as Jesus reads their real thoughts: the people want him to do for them the kind of mighty works he performed in Capernaum. Jesus counters by quoting a well-known proverb, “No prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Jesus is rejected and his own people get so angry that they threaten to kill him.
Luke describes an amazing swing from the initial positive response to the negativity of anger and violence. What poisoned their reactions? Do we passively let sick minds lead us astray? Why is the local prophet not accepted? Profanity is the crutch of the inarticulate and violence is the aberration of reason. It is impossible to reason with anger, so Jesus shook the dust from his feet and walked away to another place.
The people at Nazareth may have found Jesus too human for their admiration. Follow Joseph’s son? Not likely! In much the same way, many people find the Church too human for their liking. They object to the Church being involved in politics… it should stay in the sanctuary. They focus on any human error, scandal or defect, totally oblivious to the vast witness of holiness, kindness and practical charity down through the centuries. We should be glad that the Church is human and frail… because that means that there is room for us in it. If it were a Church for the perfect, most of us would have to leave.
Prophets make people uncomfortable because they constantly challenge them to be faithful to God. Jesus quotes two actions of Elijah and Elisha. At the time of the great famine Elijah fed the poor widow of Seraphath, a place outside of Israel (1 Kgs. 17:8-16). Elisha had cured a Syrian of leprosy (2 Kgs. 5:1-18). These examples show that God is not limited to one people but cares for all.
Jesus wants to make it clear to his people in Nazareth and also to us, that it is impossible to claim exclusive ownership of him. He is from Nazareth but he is not limited by them. He has come for all. God cannot be forced into our concepts and categories. Instead, we are invited to put ourselves at ‘his service’, even when it takes us to people of other ethnic, social or religious groups.
Being a Christian does not give us any more rights to God than others. It is impossible to hear the word of Jesus and not to feel challenged. If the hearer feels that the challenge is for his or her good, the word will be welcomed. When, however, as is the case today, the word of Jesus challenges the worldview of the hearer and they are not ready to change, the reaction will be a refusal and a desire to get rid of the one who is the source of such disturbing and challenging insights.
Just as the people of Nazareth, we are inclined to live only within the narrow limits of our own local, ethnic, religious, social or political group and work exclusively for the benefit of ‘our people’. We seem to find it difficult to see anything good in members from other groups or communities that don’t share our values or beliefs.
Throughout the Gospel, Jesus constantly invites his hearers to react to the Word of God spoken through him. Some will accept it, while others will feel threatened by it and reject him. Jesus always challenges us to break through the boundaries of our prejudices and single-mindedness to see God at work in all people.
As we reflect on today’s Gospel, we must ask ourselves: are we really interested in changing our lives? Or have we chosen the middle course – shake the preacher’s hand and change nothing? It’s our personal business as usual! Perhaps honesty might demand that we ought to push the preacher over a cliff. At least it would show that we had heard the message – and did something about it.
The kind of ‘Love’ Jesus wants us to share with others is the kind of love that ‘He’ expressed on the Cross when he prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Only ‘Love’ can conquer people who reject those sent by God
to enlighten us with His ‘Truth’.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
4th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … By our baptism we have all become ‘Priests, Prophets and Kings’. As priests we have the right to worship and spread the ‘Good News’; as prophets we are witnesses to our Lord Jesus Christ by the way we live; as kings we have responsibility for others.
Mon. … Reflect on the times you have been accused of having a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, when you have been laughed at, ridiculed and avoided by family and friends, when you have spoken up about moral behaviour, injustices and the truth because you have chosen to see the situations through the eyes of God.
Tues. … Be confident that whatever hostility was directed at you would not have been the last word. The truth will always prevail. Rejection is common in the lives of those who stand up for righteousness. Like Jeremiah, we must remain undaunted and continue to speak out.
Wed. … When we are rejected, we need to continue to care for and love those who condemn us. By repeating Jesus’ prayer on the Cross you will receive strength, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Thur. … Jesus remains steadfast in his message to the people of Nazareth. Likewise, we, too, must remain resolute in being a witness to truth and justice. When people respond to you in anger, don’t try to reason with them, – just walk away and ‘wipe the dust off your feet’. God will provide other opportunities to re-visit the issue when tempers have calmed down.
Frid. … It is impossible to hear the word of Jesus and not feel challenged. When people and their life-styles seem threatened and they are not prepared to change, their reaction will definitely be hostile. Love is more powerful than any form of hostility and quells almost immediately all responses of anger. Love can conquer people who reject those sent by God to enlighten them with his truth.
Sat. … Throughout the Gospel, Jesus constantly invites us to react to the Word of God spoken through him. Like the people of Nazareth, we are inclined to live only within the narrow limits of our local, ethnic, religious or political groups. We tend to work exclusively for the benefit of ‘our people’. Jesus challenges us to break through these barriers and experience God at work in ‘all people’. It will change the way we see the world.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Almighty God and Father, today we reflect on the two great ‘Liberators’ who came to announce unwelcome truths to Your people. Through our baptism, You have called us to always announce Your truth through Your teachings in Your Scriptures and in the Gospel. When we are rejected, grant us the ability to pray for wisdom and courage to respond with patience, understanding and love.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.