4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jer 1: 4 – 5, 17 – 19; Ps 71; 1 Cor 12: 31 – !3: 13; Luke 4: 21 – 30
It is the scene of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple and the just and pious Simeon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, coming into the Temple, sees the Child, holds Him and says to Mary: “This child is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be contradicted – and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword.” An ominous prophecy, to say the least – something Mary could not help ponder and did.
It is now 30 years later and Jesus is in Nazareth, among His relatives, among people who have known Him all His life and what at first would seem to be a great event, a wonderful homecoming becomes anything but that. The prophecy Mary heard about her Son being contradicted, opposed has come true – surely, the sword has pierced her heart – and, it will not be the only time.
They marveled at His words, speaking favorably of Him – they were proud of Him, one of their own, But Jesus knew there was something else going on – they were looking for miracles, wonders; Jesus addresses this pointedly. “You will doubtless quote me the proverb, ‘Physician heal yourself,’ and say, ‘do here in your own country the things we have heard You have done in Capernaum.”
He took them to task – He uncovered their agenda, their expectations of what had to be. Their reaction is extreme – their feelings of indignation turn to action – expelling Him and intending to hurl Him over the brow of the hill. However, St. Luke reports: “But He went straight through their midst and walked away” – their wrath came to nothing and they could not do anything to Him – in every way He was too much for them.
I believe this event can help us to see our own relationship with the Lord Jesus, how we look upon Him. What we expect from Him. What being a Christian, a Catholic is all about. “I believe in Jesus Christ” – we will soon pray in the Creed – what in reality is this “belief” about? The life of faith is not easy – it is not, for most of us, struggle free – not because of God but because of our own humanness. Have any of these questions ever come to your mind: Does God really love me? Has He really forgiven me my sins? Does God hear my prayers? Why is this or that happening to me or to someone I love?
Such questions do arise and are not of themselves obstacles – rather occasions to pray, to seek the grace for trust – it is when a person makes the question, the doubt an infallible statement – God does not love, forgive, hear me. For most of us, hopefully, we do not reach that conclusion but we can, as someone has written, “we can half turn away from Him and so the Holy Spirit, who is a Spirit of turning toward, is unable to communicate Himself fully to us.”
How do we know if we have half turned away from Him? In the second reading, we heard one of the most beautiful and powerful passages of the New Testament, St. Paul’s proclamation on love: “Love is patient, kind, not jealous, never rude, not self-seeking, not prone to anger, does not brood over injuries, rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure. Love never fails.”
How seriously do I take this to my heart, to my life? We can be touched by it, be moved by its sentiments and yet, treat it as we would a poem on a Hallmark greeting. It is the difference between facing God in faith – believing, trusting, responding and being half turned – being complacent with mediocrity, with the minimum, with a casual relationship between strangers.
Some years after the rejection of Jesus by His people, St. John wrote this in the prologue to his Gospel; he said this of the Lord Jesus, the Word: “To His own He came, yet His own did not accept Him. Any who did accept Him, He empowered to become children of God.”
In which group do I desire to be? The Lord invites, inspires, graces, waits – the response is not automatic – it is a matter of choice, of decision. What is my, your decision? Better yet, what does my Lord desire for me/you?