Tuesday, January 26, 2016

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Through our Baptism we are called to be Prophets (because just like Jesus, as our baptism consecrates us as priests, prophets, and kings).  Being a prophet means speaking God’s truth, but when it comes to speaking that truth, especially to authority, we can find that our message is not always well received.  As our readings will show this week, being a prophet has its difficulties…

Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19
Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Luke 4:21-30

Our first reading comes from the book of the prophet Jeremiah with the passage that describes for us his calling to become a prophet.  Jeremiah began his mission under the much revered King Josiah, but was eventually witness to the fall of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians.  Jeremiah understands the dangers that can befall a prophet, so in his calling the Lord reminds him that his foes will not prevail over him… that he has the protection of the Lord.  Our Psalm reinforces this idea of the Lord as protector as we sing “I will sing of your salvation.”  The Palm reminds us that the Lord is our refuge, our fortress and our strength.

Jeremiah’s story is actually quite typical.  For all the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, we here similar calling stories, and all of them at one point or another find themselves turning to the Lord as they are faced with all forms of disapproval.  Jesus also faced these difficulties throughout his ministry, starting right in his home town of Nazareth.

Our Gospel from Luke picks up where we left off last week… Jesus has just read from the scroll from the Prophet Isaiah, proclaiming that the prophecy has been fulfilled.  The initial reaction from the crowd is amazement, but that is quickly replaced with more questioning… as if to say, “Who does this guy think he is?”  Understand that these are the people he grew up with… they know him and his family very well.  They have also heard of the deeds he performed in Capernaum, but they want their own demonstration.  Jesus feels that they should know him and trust him, but it is precisely because they know him that they have doubts, and in fact become quite angry when he refuses to “show off” to them.  They’re about ready to toss him off a cliff, but in response Jesus just walks away.

Our second reading continues our study of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  Again, picking up from where we left off last week (with his discourse on the Body of Christ and our different spiritual gifts), Paul now explains the best way to seek the best spiritual gifts… by putting on love.  While Paul’s soliloquy on love is a favorite for weddings, our use of this reading this week is meant to bridge the divisions within this young church… by recognizing that everyone has unique gifts, that we are all from the one Spirit, and the best way to treat each other is with love.

Final Thoughts:
It is said that a prophet is never accepted in his own land.  This is proven time and again in our scriptures, and is even true for Jesus in his home town of Nazareth.  These are the people he grew up with… and as is true of all close relationships, it is hard for the people who know us best to accept that we’ve changed and grown in ways that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable.  Familiarity breeds a certain bias that his hard for people to dismiss or overcome.  Our take-away is this:  Exercising our prophetic voice is difficult, even more so when we’re speaking with those who know us best.  But that is no reason to stop, because as the Lord said to Jeremiah, “I am with you to deliver you.”

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