Sunday Sermon for February 3, 2019, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; 1 Cor 12:31-13:13; Lk 4:21-30
In the first reading today we hear about the call of the Prophet Jeremiah. While this passage was of paramount importance to the great Prophet, I believe it has profound implications for each of us as well. Like Jeremiah, God has called us from the womb and dedicated us prior to our birth; but He has created us at this time in history and called us into His Holy Church.
Given the circumstances taking place around us we need to listen to what the Lord said to Jeremiah and apply His counsel to ourselves: “Gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you…they will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.” In this time of the Church’s history, it is imperative that we stand up and live the truths we profess.
Our Lord’s counsel certainly refers to the doctrinal teachings of the Church, but it refers even more to the moral teachings. We are living in a time of confusion and, if I am correct, the darkness is soon to become far darker. People need to see light in the darkness, and find clarity in the confusion. Only those who are absolutely committed to Jesus Christ and His Church will be able to provide this light and clarity.
If you have suffered for the Faith in the past, you will realize what the gift you have been because it has prepared you for the suffering to come. If you have remained faithful to the Lord in your trials, you can already understand the Lord’s words that they will fight against you but not prevail over you. The Lord is our deliverer; whether from our immediate troubles or from this vale of tears; His victory in His faithful ones is assured.
In order to be counted among His faithful ones, we need to learn what St. Paul teaches us in the second reading. People seek many different gifts from the Lord, all of which are good. However, these gifts are neither the greatest gifts nor are they an end in themselves. Rather, if these gifts are from the Lord, they are given in charity and for charity to build up the Body of Christ.
This is why St. Paul speaks of various gifts, but adds that if he has not love, he has nothing at all. Sadly, in our human weakness we have the capacity to use the gifts given by God for selfish gain. However, God expects us to put our gifts at the service of others, to serve the people around us for His glory.
In the Gospel we hear about our Lord preaching to the people in Nazareth. Remember, these are the very people who founded a town and named it after the expected Messiah because they believed He would come from among their number. These were devout people who may have thought themselves to be above others. Regardless, when Jesus spoke the Word of God to them, they did not want to hear it because it was not what they had expected.
Our Lord speaks to them, the very people whose identity is wrapped up in the coming of the Messiah, of what occurred during the times of Elijah and Elisha: how Gentiles, pagans, believed in the Word of God while the Chosen People did not. Not only do we have to understand how these words could apply to us, but also, how these words will apply to our circumstances if we remain faithful to the Lord.
By this I mean that it will be those who call themselves Catholic who will be the greatest persecutors of those who are faithful to Jesus. Of course, like the people of Nazareth, they will be convinced of their own righteousness while they stand in judgment of everyone else. These same people will reject the ways of God, choosing instead, to compromise with the ways of the world.
In the meantime, God will call others to Himself who will believe in His Word and do His will. Many of these people have not believed before or even sought to do the will of God. Like Elijah, Elisha, the Apostles, and our Lord Himself, we will need to be ready to extend the love of God to whomever the Lord sends, no matter how unlikely they may seem to us.
Remember, our Lord told us we cannot love only those who love us; the love of God embraces everyone. Many will reject His invitation, but there will be great rejoicing in Heaven over those who will accept it. Look in the mirror and realize God does not choose those who would appear the most likely and rejoice in the love and mercy of God!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.