Theme: Love is essential
In today’s readings we are presented with the virtue of love as an answer to God’s will. Love is faithful despite the temptation to stray. It is ready to forgive and makes valiant efforts at forgetting the hurtful aspects of life together. Love holds out even when nest eggs are forced to hatch too soon. Love survives when old age claims looks, memory and fervor. We can apply these words to the love of parents for children and friends among themselves. Some people calls love a dreadful task, but love, more than a feeling is a matter of the will. Love is in the decisions we make, and the harder the decision, the greater the outcome. Love in action is a harsh and dreadful yet Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus endured it, how about me and you?
First reading: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19
Prophet Jeremiah recounted this narrative of his initial call much later in life when he was confronted with a moment of great suffering in which he had realized the failure of his mission. Jeremiah had spoken God’s word for more than forty years to no avail. No one seemed to listen. No one seemed to learn. Suddenly, he felt divinely inspired to recall the memory of the original call where he drew strength against his disappointment. Thus the story shared in this pericope springs from his will to endure by remembering that despite everything, God is the one who has called him and his was only to obey the call. This is shown in the several first person expressions describing the divine action: before I formed, I knew, I dedicated, I appointed, I command, I would not leave you crushed, I made you … a city, a pillar of iron, I am with you. Clearly, Jeremiah understood, as were his contemporaries, that his was God’s work, voice and message that he was called and commissioned to deliver.
Such a service would require Jeremiah to speak out boldly and relentlessly for God from the time of the reign of Josiah which began about 623 B.C until the murder of Gedeliah in 582 B.C. Jeremiah felt compelled by the power of the Word to predict and then to endure and interpret the downfall of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians. Rather than attribute their defeat to the superior strength of the foreign army he assigned the tragedy to the infidelities of the Israelites. Unlike his predecessor, Isaiah who had held out some hope that “the Lord of Hosts, like a bird hovering over its young, will be a shield over Jerusalem” Isaiah 31:5, Jeremiah sow no hope for his countrymen. He described them in terms of a shattered vessel that could not be mended cf. Jeremiah 19:11. It would be only the future generations who would enjoy a new and everlasting covenant written within the hearts of a beloved and forgiven people cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34. It was this Jeremiah’s prophecy of eventual reconciliation with God that enabled the defeated and exiled tribes of Judah to come home to their beloved Jerusalem and start all over again.
Second reading: 1Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Two employees at a convalescent home stood side by side at the serving line in the cafeteria. As the residents filed by with their trays, one of them silently slopped the food on each plate and swiftly moved on to the next. The other smiled at each resident after being served their portion of food as if to an honored guest at a banquet. Essentially, both employees were offering the same service of feeding the hungry. One served them food with dignity, while the other bestowed their honor with a captivating smile. This may be seen a small and insignificant action, yet it grants one unforgettable good memories of care that Paul see as “an excellent way” 1 Corinthians 12:31. In small things as in great ones, love makes all the difference.
Paul’s hymn of love affirmed the conviction that spiritual gifts are to be fully informed and motivated by love. Without love, all other works are as vain and hollow as cymbals which produce a momentary display but are no more lasting than their echo. Of the several Greek words for love, Paul chose to use agape in this hymn. Agape is a general term describing bonds between people as well as between God and humankind. Agape conveys a sense of altruistic and respectful love for the other regardless of shared affections and personal attraction. Using this general and inclusive term, Paul personified agape and described ‘her’ by what she does or does not do with 15 verbs in 1Corinthians 12: 4-7. Love waits patiently, acts kindly, doesn’t envy, boast, or disgrace herself. Love does not seek her own advantage. Love finds no joy in evil but celebrates the truth. Love is portable in that it will remain with the believer through the passage of death.
Gospel: Luke 4:21-30
Unlike many leaders who enjoy what has been called a honeymoon period after taking on the burden of authority, Jesus seems to have gone straight from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. No sooner had he amazed his listeners with his stated agenda of good news, healing and liberation than his detractors began to attack him, criticizing him for his all-too-familiar origins and for his willingness to offer his gifts to the heavily non-Jewish population of Capernaum before he did so for his hometown. To add insult to injury; his works were gaining him popularity everywhere. The situation became even tenser when Jesus cited two narratives from their own Hebrew scriptures about Elijah and Elisha their ancestral prophets who exercised their power in God’s name on behalf of non-Jews cf. 1 Kings 17:8-14; 2 Kings 5:1-17.
Jesus was merely following in the footsteps of their honored forebears in the faith. The fact that he did so in the synagogue, where all in attendance could hear, underscored how much his’ ministry was rooted within the very heart of their shared traditions as Jews. Jesus’ presence and his participation affirmed his fidelity to the Sabbath, to the Sacred Scriptures and the Assembly of his fellow Jews gathered for prayer. Within that familiar place and among those familiar people; he attempted to reveal what was unfamiliar and unwelcome to most of them. The full awareness that all nations were dear to God and that all people ware to be the beneficiaries of God’s saving ministry sounded strange. They as a consequence rejected him and planned to end his life. This confrontation openly asserts that anger and violence are often the last defense for those who are made to face the truth superficially perceived for ages. Being reminded of what we should already know is often painful and difficult. Jesus obviously survived the hostile encounter and lived to preach and teach another day. It would not be the angry mob on the brow him off the cliff just outside Nazareth but on a cross at Golgotha. Those who believed in him and made his agenda their own understand that Jesus had struck the path they were to follow.
Today God is reminding us that no one of use is too young to be his witness; we are thus requested to cooperate. This will be possible mainly is we are willing to love until it hurts us. Once we agree to do God’s work, then we need to be aware that enemies will be in plenty though God will remain our defender. As we reflect on love we are encouraged to keep in mind that this virtue is not cheap. That is why we are called upon to sustain our promise to “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things” 1Corinthians 13:7. True love remains steady when circumstances become unstable, when jobs are lost, when home is robbed and when the future seems frighteningly insecure. This is what being a Christian means.
Fr. Paulino Mondo