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Fourth Sunday – Year C – Ordinary Time
Readings: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; I Cor 12:31-13:13; Lk 4:21-30.
1/ First Reading: NAB Jeremiah 1:4 The word of the LORD came to me thus: 5 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. 17 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; 18 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. 19 They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.
2/ Second Reading: NAB 1 Corinthians 12:31 Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. 13:1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. 2 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. 3 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. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, 5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, 6 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 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. 9 For we know partially and we prophesy partially, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 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. 12 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. 13 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
3/ Gospel: NAB Luke 4:21 He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 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?” 23 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.'” 24 And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. 25 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. 26 It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 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.” 28 When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. 29 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. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Tien M. Dinh, O.P.
I. THEME: The prophet’s difficult mission
The flatterers like to be praised and those who praise them; in opposition, they hate those who criticize them though they know it is true. A prophet is called to speak the truth; therefore, he shall be hated and persecuted by the flatterers.
Today readings concentrate on the prophetic mission and the challenges which he must face. In the first reading, God selected the prophet Jeremiah before he was formed in his mother’s womb; he sanctified and gave him the prophetic mission before he was borned. He promised to protect and to give him glory if he is loyal to his given mission. In the second reading, St. Paul highlighted an important virtue which a prophet must have is the charity with God and others. If a prophet has no charity, he can’t fulfill his mission. In the Gospel, Jesus returned to Nazareth, his growing up place, to preach the Gospel for his fellow countrymen. He challenged them to change their way of thinking and expression of faith in God. They didn’t change, but angrily wanted to hurl him down from the hill;but he passed through the midst of them and went away.
1/ Reading I: Gird your loins, stand up and tell them all that I command you.
1.1/ The relationship between God and the prophet: According to the original meaning, a prophet is the one who speaks in place of God or the God’s mouthpiece; not to foretell or to predict what shall happen, although many times what had been said by him was fulfilled in the future. In today passage, the prophet Jeremiah highlighted what relates to the prophetic mission.
(1) God is the One who selects and gives the prophetic mission: No one can volunteer to become a prophet, but he must be selected by God, even before he was formed in his mother’s womb, as Jeremiah wrote about his prophetic mission, “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.”
(2) The prophet must courageously speak what God commands: The prophet is God’s official speaker; therefore, he must speak what God commands, not what he likes to speak or what people want to hear. If, for any reason, he doesn’t speak what God commands, he is no longer God’s prophet. Jeremiah wrote, “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.”
1.2/ God gives blessings and protects His prophet: God knows all difficulties which His prophet must confront, so He promises with them two things: Firstly, He protects him from his persecutors, “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.” Secondly, the prophet shall be triumphant over all these people, “They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” God sometimes lets His prophets to lose their lives to witness for Him; however, He shall grant them glorious victory after their death in this world.
2/ Reading II: I shall show you a still more excellent way, the way of charity.
2.1/ Charity is the motivation of all good works: St. Paul knew people desire to be perfect; so he advised the Corinthians, “Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.” The perfect way he wanted to mention here is the way of charity: to love God and to love others. To Paul, charity is the virtue which God gives to human beings, not through practicing. Like other theological virtues, after is given, people can practice to make it growing everyday until it reaches perfection. If one doesn’t have this virtue, all other blessings and good works can’t be developed, but gradually disappear. St. Therese of Infant Jesus had the same thought with St. Paul when she said: If there is no charity, the eager of evangelization shall be extinguished and the desire to be martyrs shall no longer existed.
2.2/ A prophet can’t be lack of charity: St. Paul affirmed, “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.”
This is true also in technology: The experts not only need knowledge about their field, but they also need a love for that field; if not, they are easily to be discouraged and shall not sacrifice everything for their career.
This is even more true for prophets, they must love the truth and a desire to bring the truth they knew about God for others, so that they are also liberated by the truth. Charity is the motivation for prophets to preach the Gospel. To love God is to love people; if there is no charity, prophets can’t fulfill their mission. Prophet can’t sit still when people are far away from God. They aren’t joyful when seeing evil deeds, but joyful when seeing truthful things. Prophets must be patient in bringing sinners back to God. They preach the Gospel, not for lowly material gains, but to bring the Gospel for all people. Because of their love for God and others, prophets can endure all things for people to have salvation.
2.3/ Charity shall last forever: According to Paul, charity is above all because only charity shall last forever. St. Paul reasoned: “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.”
St. Paul had a similar reason when comparing the three theological virtues: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” When people have the beatific vision, they don’t need the virtue of faith anymore because they see God face-to-face; they no longer need the virtue of hope because they enjoy what they once hope for; but they need the virtue of love to continue to love God with more affection.
3/ Gospel: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”
3.1/ The prophet challenges people to face the truth: Today passage reported the event when Jesus came back to Nazareth to preach the Good News for his fellow countrymen. After reading the Book of the prophet Isaiah, he began to teach and to talk about his mission. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” He challenged his fellow audiences to face three important things:
(1) The faith based only on miracles isn’t firm: Jesus knew that the Jews like to see miracles. They already heard about miracles which he did, and they wished that he shall do the same things he did at Capernaum. Jesus reminded them that to believe in God is more important than in the miracles. All miracles were done to light up people’s faith. If after they witnessed miracles and still don’t believe, miracles lost its purpose. Moreover, the faith based on miracles isn’t a firm faith, people easily lose their faith when there is no longer miracles.
(2) Don’t have a contemptible attitude toward familiar people: Jesus said to them the truth, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” A Vietnamese adage also talks about this bad habit, “when people live near a pagoda, they call Budda their brother.” Since the Israelites are so familiar with God’s blessings, they had a contemptible attitude and no longer recognized His blessings poured upon them. People must know their lowly and limited standing before God.
(3) Many Gentiles expressed their faith more proper than the Israelites: Jesus listed out two examples with the purpose to highlight the Gentiles’ expression of faith. Firstly, “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.” Secondly, “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.” The widow of Zareptha and Naaman were blessed because they believed and did what the prophets commanded them to do. The Israelites knew about God and His power to work miracles, they should express their faith more firmly than the Gentiles, but the truth is the Gentiles often expressed their faith more proper than them.
3.2/ People’s reaction: The passage showed us people’s impolite and improper reaction. At first, when they heard Jesus’ preaching, “All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” But the truth wasn’t enough to convince them to believe in Jesus, they wanted him to work miracles.
The truth hurts. They were angry when Jesus told them to face the truth: “When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.” They can’t stand when Jesus compared them with the Gentiles, because they pridefully think that they are God’s people, Abraham’s descendants, and are worthy to have all God’s priviledges. The Gentiles are born to be slaves and not worthy to have salvation.
Only the truth can set people free. God’s children who didn’t believe in God and the prophets, sent by Him, are they still worthy to be God’s children? Not only refusing the truth, they also want to destroy Jesus, the origin of all truths and the one who is speaking the truth to them. Their anger made them to be murders, “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 he passed through the midst of them and went away.” Woe to those who refused and destroyed the truth.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– All of us received the prophetic vocation when we were baptized to preach, to live and to witness for the Gospel.
– When doing the prophetic mission, we shall be refused, persecuted and even killed. God who gives the mission and sanctifies us, shall continue to bless, to protect and to help us to overcome all dangers and to be victorious.
– Charity is the gift which God bestows on us for our prophetic mission. The mission shall be ended some day, but charity shall last forever.