The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C

Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; 1 Cor 12:31—13:13 or 13:4-13; Lk 4:21-30

1. Some years ago a popular song told us, "What the world needs now is love, love, love." Perhaps the composer of this song was inspired by St Paul's letter to the Corinthians. At any rate, Paul of Tarsus would totally agree with the main lines of the song.

This chapter has been correctly called a hymn of love. I suppose too we might name it a hymn to love. Many would argue that the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians is not merely the finest prose in St Paul's letters but also in the entire New Testament. Authors of whatever stripe would consider their oeuvre complete if they could run off such a sublime message on their word processors. The Holy Spirit had full burners working when He inspired Paul of Tarsus on this passage.

All of us at some time have asked in one form or another, "What is love?" There are of course many answers to the query. The one offered by mystics is the one I find most satisfying. They would say simply that love is a person. His name is Jesus. And, if you want to be an authentic lover, become that Jesus. He is the "lure let down to tempt the soul to rise."

Someone suggests a trick for our instruction. Wherever Paul mentions the word "love," we should substitute the word "Jesus." Listen!

Jesus is always patient and kind. He is never jealous. Jesus is never boastful or conceited. He is never rude or selfish. Jesus does not take offense and is not resentful. He takes no pleasure in other people's sins but delights in the truth. Jesus is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

The glorious language does fit our Leader well, does it not?

But suppose that wherever St Paul mentions love, we substitute our own names. Is there anyone here who thinks the language fits us? If anything, we should grow red in the face - all of us - and hopefully sigh our regrets. Yet, the exercise does tell us the direction we, Christ followers should be heading.

2. Someone described a biblical prophet as one who comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable. Such a prophet was Jeremiah. Such a prophet is Jesus. Jesus' public ministry begins with a disaster. Think about it. Of his entire time on earth (33 years), Jesus spent about 90% in Nazareth. The Nazarenes knew him intimately - or at least they thought they did. When he stood up to do the reading, the people at first reacted with delight. But then came a change. He told them something that shocked them. This prophecy of Isaiah, he said, has been fulfilled ... in me. At those words the Nazarenes wanted to kill him.

We have to step back and consider what was going on. The Nazarenes knew Jesus as a neighbor - and no doubt a very good neighbor. What scandalized them was that this man was saying he is the axis of history. That was a big claim but Jesus was ready to back it up. The Nazarenes would have none of it.

It is difficult to accept any prophet—someone who comes along with a new way of thinking or a radical idea which undermines our established way of thinking. Jesus was no accepted in Nazareth because he dare to criticize, and the people didn’t expected from him a teaching but the miracles. It was the stubbornness and obstinacy of their harts that caused their anger. Is it not similar among us? Are we also not angry with somebody who is trying to correct us and to help us out of errors and mistakes?

And this is a pity, because those who dare to criticize us, those who have enough courage to make corrections are our true friends. We can even say: “Don’t listen to those who are applauding and admiring you, because you will become too proud and boastful. Listen rather to those who are strong and courageous enough to show you your mistakes. They will certainly improve the quality of your life. “

Roman Emperor, Mark Aurelius used to pray every day: “Lord, protect me from the false friends because with the true enemies I can handle myself”. Very often the false friends are glorifying and applauding causing the biggest damages.

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