Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C- Reflections by Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; Ps 71:1-6, 15, 17: 1 Cor 12:31–13:13 and Luke 4:21-30.
Rejections of the Prophets and the Resiliance of Love
Prophets are called and sent to be the mouth piece of God, God’s messengers. They preached with divine-spiritual authority about the love of God not themselves. They are the conscience of the people. They preached and live the truth with conviction of divine blessings and protection. They are always sent to challenge certain things and even the status quo that does not seems to be in the right direction or does not reflects God’s love that Paul talks about in today’s Second reading (1 Cor 12:31–13:13). Love is kind, not jealous and not pompous, not inflated, not rude, not selfish, and not quick-tempered, does not brood over injury, and does not rejoice over wrong doings except truth. Love hopes all things, believes all things and endures all things. True Love is consistent. Many of them suffered terribly in the course of preaching God’s love, His covenant with us. Some were thrown into prisons. Others including, Jeremiah, Paul and Christ were killed or rejected. But what is important is that in every situation, age and time God would always send us a prophet, a leader, a preacher. He knows how best to communicate with us His enduring Love and to assist us in our difficulties and needs.
When Jeremiah was appointed prophets to the nations in today’s first reading (Jer 1:4-5, 17-19) Jerusalem was under attack and threats of exile by Nebucchandnezzar and his military empire. He must have cross path courageously with Zephaniah who also supported the spiritual reforms and renewal of King Josiah, challenging idolatries and promoting faith in God alone. He saw people denying the power of God and the impact of His divine presence. Jeremiah saw Jerusalem destroyed. He saw his compatriot killed, deported. Many lost their homes, freedom and land. Human rights were out of question. He saw human beings inhumanity to other human beings. He witnessed human beings rejecting God their creator and rejecting fellow human beings created like them in the image of God. He saw people not being patient with one another. Jealousy, rudeness, envy were being displayed. He saw people replaced love with hatred, peace with violence, community values with individualism, selfishness and monopoly of behaviors. There was a lot to be done to restore faith and hope to the remnants. It would take someone well trained in diplomacy with a special grace of God or one endowed with advance political experience to preach boldly against such violence.
Ordinarily one would understand why Jeremiah made excuses to God. He knew he was not wealthy. He was from a small village called Anathoth, about three miles from Jerusalem. He was quite young. He lacked training in public speaking. And though no one would take him seriously, God does. But God reassured him that he would be given what to say the blessings of success in his God ordained mission (Jer 1:5-9). His mouth was empowered when touched by God (Jer 1:9).
In the face of opposition and rejections both from the invaders and their Judean collaborators Jeremiah is given the responsibility of standing and preaching the truth that God had commanded him even to the remnant of the attack. God said to him: Be not crushed on their account for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of Iron, a wall of brass…they will fight against you, but will not prevail” (Jer 1:17-19).
Although we are separated from Jeremiah by more than 2 thousand years the problem Jeremiah faced are not peculiar to the world of antiquity. Ours as we all know is a changing society. What Jeremiah saw do reoccur today in different forms: tension between world powers- US, Russia China, monopoly of world economy, and wars in different parts of the world, violence, divisions among religious groups and acts of terrorisms. Remnants of anti-semitism, slavery, aparthaid and caste -system practices in different parts of the world. Materialism, the urge to dominate others and attempt to minimize and reject the saving significance of Christ and the Cross of love and family values are increasingly becoming the order of the day.
Like in the case of Jeremiah, the prophetic Messiah, Christ was faced with opposition and rejection from the synagogue officials and from his own people. His mission like Jeremiah was to uplift the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the rejected, stand up for the truth (Isa 61:1ff; Lk 4: 14-30) and share his love with humanity. Yet many, of them would ask “can something good come from Nazareth? Is he not the Son of Joseph? (Luke 4:21-30).
Be it in the ministry-community of Jeremiah, that of Christ, Paul or in our present day families and communities if there is love there will certainly be less rejections, quarrels, discriminations and exclusivism. If there is love we would be more patient with one another. If there is love we would be less envious of one another’s spiritual gifts. If there is love our actions towards my neighbors will be full politeness and kindness and we won’t rejoice or celebrate when our neighbors make a little mistake or over-react or over-read the intensions of our neighbors. We would hurry to throw him or her out of our prayer lists. We don’t want to be like the synagogue officials who had wanted to throw Jesus Christ out from the top of the hill. We don’t want to reject Christ by rejecting our neighbors (Mtt 25). Don’t we sing “What so ever you do to the least of my brethren--- so you do onto me?
Like prophets through our water of baptism, may we continue to be resilient in accepting one another, in preaching the truth and living the love the God had first lavished us with.