January 30, 2022 | N W | Baptism, Commitment, Discipleship, Guest Celebrants, Love, Self-Reflection

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 30, 2022 – Year C
Readings: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19 / Ps 71 / 1 Cor 12:31 – 13:13 / Lk 4:21-30
by Rev. Louis Benoit, Guest Celebrant

In the gospel you heard last week, Jesus presented a grand vision of God’s plan for humanity:   God’s plan for humanity through Jesus, God’s presence among them.  The people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth at first were impressed – They liked it.  But then they started asking, “Hey, isn’t this the son of Joseph, the local carpenter?”  They go from seeing Jesus’ grand vision to seeing things from their local small-town viewpoint only.  In their narrow vision, they miss God’s presence in Jesus, and they resent Him.  That’s what’s going on in today’s gospel.

This could be somewhat like us:  We sometimes like to keep God limited to a narrow vision that neatly fits our lives.  “Let’s keep things comfortable, without things disturbing us.”  We like to limit God, like these people in Nazareth did.

I remember years ago seeing on television a theater company in Atlanta, Georgia, that was doing political satire.  At that time, the governor of Georgia was Lester Maddox, who was a bit of a political accident and a real character.  The theater company did a song performed by a guy who was really made up to look like Lester Maddox.  The title of the song was, “God is an American”.  Of course, as the song goes on, God ends up being white; He ends up being male; He ends up being Protestant; and He ends up being Republican.  So the whole song is about Lester Maddox making God into his own image.  He’s making God in his image, rather than seeing himself in the image of God.  God has got to be first!

We can have a tendency to want the security of keeping things the way they are, but God is totally beyond us.  And being totally beyond us, God will always, in love, call us beyond ourselves into a deeper relationship with Him.  Being made in the image and likeness of God means always being open to the eternal presence of God.  God will lead us deeper and deeper and deeper all of our life long, and we’ll never get to the bottom of it.

Of course, Jesus presented that grand vision that we heard last week, but then people get caught in their own narrow view of things.  That’s what’s happening in today’s gospel.

Looking at a deeper life with God also means looking at a deeper life with each other, a deeper relationship with all creation – That’s part of a deeper relationship with God, something that will never end and always grow, always be there.

Of course, in the Bible, and throughout history into our modern day, there have been prophetic people.  That’s a big issue in today’s readings.  That First Reading from Jeremiah was about being a prophet.

Prophets are people who have a vision of what God wants for the people, and they are articulating that vision to the people; that’s a prophet.  Of course, a lot of people don’t want prophets to turn things around for them.  They want to keep their status quo.  Most prophets ended up with a violent end, including prophets in our own day:  people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Archbishop Romero – All of them prophetic people, and all of them were shot.  We don’t always like prophetic people calling us beyond where we are.

But we are all called to be prophetic people.  In our baptismal ceremony, we are baptized into Christ “as priest, prophet, and king.”  That’s our baptism.  We are called to prophetic existence of new life in Christ, and to be prophetic to the world around us, calling the world to new life in Christ.  That First Reading is the call to prophetic existence.

In being called to a deeper life in Jesus, where do we begin?  We begin with ourselves.  We need to look deeply within ourselves and see where we are not being the people we should be.  What do we need to change to make the world a better place?  Where do we need to change our lifestyles to serve God and others better?

Let’s be honest:  Most of us here are middle class people.  But compared to over half the world, we are filthy rich.  I think this is a challenge:  How do we take care of all of humankind?  I love the saying, Live simply so that others may simply live.  And that’s a challenge.  How do we, in all of our abundance, make the world a better place?  How can we be more self-giving in life?  How do we address the evils in society?  We are all called to prophetic existence in life.

Of course, in our prophetic existence, we must always do it out of love.  That’s our Second Reading from I Corinthians.  That’s Paul’s great passage of love:  To be done at all, it must be done in love for God and for others.

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