Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is my purpose? Who am I?

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.

The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), concluded in 2015, has begun an arduous but genuine healing of Canada’s relationship with the first peoples of the land by first, acknowledging the brutal wounds left by colonization, and paved ways for more open and candid dialogue, not only between the Canadian Government and the Indigenous peoples but also provided opportunities for Indigenous peoples to heal their wounds, reclaim their heritage and reimagine their cultures and identity. In truth, embracing both beauty and ugliness of the past, Canada as a nation must also bravely embark on a journey of truth-seeking and reconciliation in order to reimagine a Canadian identity that is characterized by honesty and trust; hope and compassion; justice and kindness; truth and reconciliation. Senator Murray Sinclair, the first First Nations justice in the province of Manitoba and chairman of the TRC in Canada, explains there are four questions that “every Indigenous person must answer in order to understand who they are” (Talaga 17). These questions are: “Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is my purpose? Who am I?” (Talaga 17-18). In fact, these are the fundamental questions that are not only central to the identity of Indigenous peoples and Canada as a nation but also to all of us sojourning as pilgrims on earth.

This week’s readings shed light onto these existential questions. In the first reading, God reveals to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a Prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:4-5). In truth, God intimately knows each and every one of us before He forms us. So, “Where do I come from?” What is our history? God reveals to us in Jeremiah that each one of us comes from His loving heart and thoughtful design. Not only are we formed by God but also “consecrated” before birth; indeed we belong to God.

The next questions, “Where am I going?” and “What is my purpose?”, lead us into a deeper exploration of our call and mission as God’s children. Through Baptism, we are “appointed … a Prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5). What is a prophet? Simply put, a prophet is someone who speaks the truth and proclaims God’s words. The Old Testament prophets demonstrate that this is a challenging job to say the least; it takes courage and full confidence in God as each perseveres against the world’s current. Our faithful God reassures Jeremiah, and indeed all of us, “They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you” (Jer 1:19).

Our sacred call to be prophets not only guides our purpose in life but also our direction. How would we know our purpose and direction; to what rhythm shall we dance? Indeed, the pulse – the beating heart and the very essence of the Church – is animated by the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is “filled with the power of the Spirit” as he begins his public ministry in his hometown, Nazareth (Lk 4:14). The Spirit empowers Jesus to boldly proclaim Isaiah’s prophetic words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor […] to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18-19). If we allow the Spirit to fill our hearts and receive these words with humility and trust, then they will surely be fulfilled in our hearing (ref. Lk 4:21).

What does this Spirit look, feel, or sound like? Like a breath of fresh air, we can only know the Spirit through its impact. St. Paul explains in his letter to the Galatians, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22). Therefore, where there is love, there is Spirit. In addition, Paul reminds us that without love, none of our gifts matters: “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love […] I am nothing” (1Cor 13:2).

Finally, the question of “Who am I?” beautifully sums up the previous three questions. Jeremiah reminds us that we are God’s beloved and chosen ones: we are known, formed, and consecrated by God. St. Paul emphasizes that without love, we are “nothing” in his letter to the Corinthians. Most importantly, we are called to be God’s prophets; to proclaim the good news, freedom and sight to all peoples in spite of oppositions and challenges. Who we are – our true identity – reflects the face of God. Our true “self” as willed by God celebrates God’s love, prompting us to live with honesty and trust; hope and compassion; justice and kindness; truth and reconciliation.

Works Cited:
Talaga, Tanya, CBC Massey Lecture – All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward. Canada: House of Anansi Press Inc., 2018.

Posted: February 3, 2019

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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