4th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2013 – Year C

3 February 2013

Jeremiah 1.4-5,17-19
1 Cor 12.31-13.13
Luke 4.21- 30 

A young woman had been with her boyfriend for some years and then one day she told him that she was leaving him. He was very upset and asked why. Her answer was that she found him too unpredictable. Some days he would be in very good form and then suddenly for no apparent reason he would become moody, even a bit depressed. She felt that she couldn’t continue the relationship as it was causing her too much stress trying to deal with his various moods.

In the gospel today we find the people of the town of Jesus, Nazareth, like that. At first they are astonished at the gracious words that came from his lips. Soon they start complaining as they know him well, one of their own. They wonder where he learned all his wisdom and how he was able to work miracles in nearby towns. Was this jealousy, envy or what? Rather quickly they get very angry with him and even want to kill him. Later on he would experience something similar. On Palm Sunday people put branches in his path and sang, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’. A few days later some of this same crowd cried out, ‘crucify him, crucify him’.

Should we not rejoice that our God is not a God who is moody so that we cannot be sure how he will be from one day to the next like the young man above? Our God is always a loving God whose only interest is our good, our peace, and our joy. A good prayer to make might well be ‘Thank you Lord for you being You’ that is, a God who is unchangeable, who is not moody, a God on whom I can rely totally all the time because he simply is LOVE.

Isn’t that real Good News in the gospel today? That God loves us totally and unconditionally whether we are virtuous or sinning. That is why in the second reading St. Paul reminds us about the true nature of love and therefore who God is. Instead of reading the text as ‘Love is always patient, kind and so on we can put in the name of Jesus in place of the word ‘love’ etc. Maybe we may get a clearer understanding of who God is.

Another aspect of the gospel today is that believers in God, followers of Jesus may try to monopolise God and even try to put God at their service. As Christians and Church we have done so in the past and may still fall into the same temptation. Those with Jesus in today’s gospel were scandalised by the two examples he gave. He said that in these two historical incidents it was not to the Jews that God sent the prophets Elijah and Elisha but to those regarded as pagans or heathens by the Jews. What we think we know may prevent us from paying attention to what is new, especially if it comes from what is insignificant and marginalised. The Lord may well be challenging us through those we do not know how to want or appreciate now. Hopefully we may do so later on.

Two obvious examples in our times are Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. They fought for the dignity of their peoples, that even though they were black they were entitled to the same rights as all others regardless of the colour of their skin, their religious beliefs, their social standing etc. MLK was assassinated for his efforts as later on Jesus was. What are our prejudices that prevent us being open to God speaking to us through those we consider beneath us, dislike or even hate, such as homosexuals, those with AIDS, those no longer married to their original spouses but now with new partners etc.? Would this be the loving response that Paul invites us to live in the second reading?

At the end of the gospel passage the crowd forced Jesus out of the town to a hill (eventually the same scenario at Calvary – it was outside the town of Jerusalem and on a hill where Jesus was executed). They wanted to get rid of him because he spoke the truth; challenged them to become aware of their prejudices which blinded them to the truth. They asked him to work the same miracles for them as he worked elsewhere. Here we have a classic example of wanting to manipulate God and saying we will only accept him if he corresponds to our desires, our needs. But God knows well if they would not always be good for us and so his answer then is ‘no’ but are we open to hearing this?

At the end of the gospel Jesus walks through the crowd and they can do nothing about it. Sad to say Jesus may walk right through us too and we may fail to see him because of our prejudices. The Jesus of Nazareth was too human for his townspeople. How could God come in such an ordinary person such as a carpenter? That was how God came then and how he still comes. If we fail to see him in ordinary events, in ordinary people today we may never see him in our lives and he may have walked right through our midst and we may have failed to be aware of it.

“Lord Jesus, open our eyes to the many ordinary people and ways through which you come to us daily. Help us to become aware of our prejudices that prevent us being open to the new ways that you use to visit us. Teach us how to love better, how to love more. Thank you above all for you being You – never moody but always loving, compassionate, forgiving. Amen.”

Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA