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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

4th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we celebrate the fourth Sunday of the year. In our first reading which is also the first reading for the feast of John the Baptist Jeremiah says, “The word of the Lord came to me….” I wonder if he understood the implications of what God was saying to him when he heard it.  In Jeremiah’s narration of his calling we have a summary of a typical prophet’s call. First, God does the choosing and then empowers the person with the Word of God. It is not explicitly mentioned in this passage, but when prophets are called they are also empowered with God’s Spirit. They will need both, the gift of the Word they must speak to the people and the presence with them of God’s life-giving and fortifying Spirit. Prophets do not have an easy job and need all the help they can get from God. The second Reading is Paul’s hymn to true love. It is an awe-inspiring challenge to those who claim to be followers of Christ and is a reading that is often heard during wedding ceremonies. The first part describes the folly of good works done without a relationship built on love. The second part describes love in terms that appear prosaic but, because they allow for infinite development, are transcendental. Then the third part is wisdom which comes from years of reflected experience.

In the Gospel Jesus’ preaching begins with affirmation from the hearers. “All who were present spoke favorably of him.” Almost immediately the mood changed. The use of the reading from Isaiah was welcomed. It is good news that the people have waited a long time to see fulfilled. But, somehow conveyed in the words was the suggestion that Jesus himself has a role to play in the inauguration of the new age, the eternal Jubilee and it is this that is not acceptable. The examples that follow indicate that Jesus was hinting that the word of God was spoken universally, not to one particular person or group of people. The stories of the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, show that God’s love and mercy are to be found wherever there is a need and the faith to receive it. The reaction from the group was swift and indignant. They rose up and wanted to throw him not only out of the synagogue but out of the town. The hearers have hardened their hearts to the word.

Why did the crowd rise up against Jesus? Because he stepped outside the box they had constructed for him. He was no longer the local boy who made good; he was a self-proclaimed prophet. And his signs were not for the edification of the mob, but for the glory of God. In these ways, he rejected the expectations of those in Nazareth, and, so, they rejected him. As a last sign to them, Jesus walked safely through them and, according to Scripture, he never returned to his home town. Expectations are always hard to fulfil as we hear from the readings of this weekend. But, faith is not based upon expectations, but on a relationship with God. We must recognize the difference between the two. And place our expectations before God. There is a great saying that was often quoted to me by a friend who passed on a few years ago she always pointed out the man proposes and God disposes meaning that god will see and do whatever is good for us whether it is what we want or not for sometimes what we think is for our good is in fact the opposite !!

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