January 31: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Readings: Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19; 1 Cor. 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:21-30
This Sunday the readings focus our attention on our call to a prophetic mission rooted in love. Since the prophet must speak the truth in love, his message risks rejection. The first reading is about the call of Jeremiah who is chosen by God even before he was born. “I have appointed you as prophet to the nations…Stand up and tell them all I command you”. Jeremiah is also warned that his mission will not be easy, because his message will certainly meet opposition. The only reason why Jeremiah accepts such an unpopular mission is God’s love and faithfulness in the midst of persecution. “They will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you”. This is a clear reminder that it is not the eloquence of God’s messengers that count, but their clear witness to God’s love. Against this background we see the meaning of Paul’s message in the second reading. Without the kind of love that Paul speaks about, Jeremiah or any messenger of God will fail. Love that is patient and kind and never jealous; a love that is always ready to forgive, to trust, hope and endure whatever comes, is a powerful driving force. That love sustained Paul in his ministry till his martyrdom in Rome, and the same love inspired Jesus. Even though rejected by his own people, Jesus endures all persecution to his own death and resurrection.
The Gospel passage is a clear reminder that when God’s messengers speak the truth in love, they risk rejection and opposition. Jesus in the Synagogue faces such rejection not because he is a local young man of Nazareth, but because his biblical message about God’s universal love and salvation contains a truth that the audience cannot deny, and thus angers the religious and political leaders. He is immediately considered dangerous and subversive. “They sprung to their feet and hustled him out of the town…intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away”. What message do we take home? 1) The readings remind us of our call to a prophetic mission rooted in love. 2) The readings also assure us that God never abandons his faithful servants when they speak the truth in love. 3) Just like Jeremiah, Jesus and Paul, we are challenged to live our prophetic calling as Christians even if in doing so we may risk our comfort, rejection and even our lives.
©2010 John S. Mbinda