Fear not, be bold, for God is with us!

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19

The word of the LORD came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. But do you gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land: against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people. They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Luke 4:21-30

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Luke puts this episode at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry for a reason. The remarkable contrast between the initial acceptance and admiration and the subsequent rejection of Jesus is signature of His whole ministry.

From the initial admiration to the dubious attitude because of Jesus’ family background to the final murderous attempt, this gospel passage reminds us similar incident will continue to repeat itself to those who spread the Good News, especially to Christ’s prophetic witnesses. This has happened to the prophets like Elijah and Elisha. Yet, we should not be scared and threatened by all these rejections and persecutions because God is with us and will protect us. “They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1:19)

Our world badly needs prophetic voices, which is the role of every Christian. But most of us are like Jeremiah, we have turned God down because of our fears of being too young and ineloquent (cf. Jeremiah 1:7, 14), together with many other excuses. We can find comfort in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that we have a powerful gift and weapon on our side, that is Love — love of Christ and His beloved people. It can expel all fears within us. Indeed, God will prevail and the final triumph belongs to Christ and those who stand firm for Him and persevere to the end.

This gospel passage also challenges us to not be blinded by our own pride. God works and speaks to us in ways that challenge our status quo and our limited mindset. We should not underestimate God’s love and mercy by our tunnel vision. He is generous to all, Jews and Gentiles. Our journey to become a true follower of Christ should begin with a humble, open, and generous heart.

Posted: January 31, 2016

Paul Yeung

 
Executive Director of Fountain of Love and Life (FLL).


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