Homily  4th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok UdoekpoReadings: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; Ps 71:1-6, 15, 17: 1 Cor 12:31–13:13 and Luke 4:21-30.
Preaching and Prophesying with Love
“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….and he said to them no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”
This passage from today’s Gospel highlights an outstanding message that runs through today’s scripture readings- the mission of Israel’s prophets, the mission of every Christian, the challenges they face on their mission; and how they must respond to such challenges with Love!
In today’s Gospel Jesus has gone to preach love and mercy in his own town of Nazareth. He reads and preaches from the scroll of prophet Isaiah he was familiar with. He preaches hope he preaches the coming and the fulfilment of the Messiah. He is the savior of the world, the anointed, the source peace, and joy long awaited by Israel! Many who listened to him admired and believed Christ; while many rejected, and taunted him outright. They knew his father, Joseph, they knew his mother, Mary. They knew they were poor, not from a priestly and royal family, in worldly sense! Importantly, this rejection took place in his home town of Nazareth. No wonder Jesus truly and rightly says in that passage, “no prophet is [honored,] accepted in his own native place.” We experience this every day in our lives! How often do we not take our own for granted? How often do we not disrespect ourselves—in our families groups and even among colleagues? How often are we not been rejected or persecuted simply because of our faith– as Christians? Remember, each of us are called to be prophets in our various capacities– ready to stand up for the truth, conscientize our communities, ready to resist evil, ready to cherish the highest good, love, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness as Christ did!
Even before the experiences of Christ heard in today’s Gospel, several of Israel’s prophets particularly Jeremiah was called at a very tender age to preach and challenge the evil of his time, in his own region of Judah, shortly before exile! His mission as that of Christ was made with resistance and rejection. Among Israel’s prophets, Jeremiah suffered most. He was beaten severally, abused, imprisoned, called all kinds of names, thrown into in muddy cistern, exiled and finally killed!
In this challenging mission what God said to Jeremiah is important for us today. God said to him, “Gird your loins, stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account…I have made you a fortified city, a pillar of Iron, a wall of brass- against the princes kings.”
In our daily challenges– which could come in different forms– illness, poverty, political wrangling, hatreds, unhappiness, racism, rejections, divisions in our various communities and families, we have to think and with love that God is solidly behind us!
This is the love that Paul reminds us of in that 2nd reading. Like Jeremiah and Christ, he suffered in his missionary journeys. He met various challenges in the Corinthian church- including rivalry, hatred, back-biting, division and unhealthy competitions. For Paul, truly, all these challenges, including our personal challenges, and struggles- be it illnesses, rejections, unhappiness, threats of war and terrorisms, set-backs in life, loss of our loved ones, modern challenges to the teachings of the church and family values- all these– can be handled by each of us, “prophets on a mission,” with Love! And for St. Paul,
The Love of God is Patience in moments of trials
The Love of God is kindness to the poor and the needy, and people we meet on our ways
The Love of God is not Jealousy of our neighbors'- gifts and talents
The Love of God is not pomposity in discharging our duties and ministries
The Love of God is not inflated, but tempered with mercy
The Love of God not rude, crude language- even to strangers
The Love of God does not seek its own interest- but looks out for the community
The Love of God is not quick tempered in the face of temptations
The Love of God does not brood over injury, but forgives, especially in this Year of Mercy
The Love of God does not rejoice over wrong doing- but courageously rejects evil
The Love of rejoices and seeks the truth