Sunday, 2/3/2019, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Chill, I Got Your Back
First Reading Commentary: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19
Last week’s first and second readings were about the Mystical Body. We each have our own individual part in the body and our part is God’s plan for us. But we are not always receptive to God’s plan. Sometimes we have no clue because we are not paying attention to God. Sometimes we reject God’s plan due to a lack in faith. Sometimes we feel as though we are not capable of carrying out God’s plan so we resist out of fear.
Today, we hear the plan that God had for Jeremiah, the prophet. What is not a part of today’s reading but should be considered is in Jeremiah 1:6 where Jeremiah said, “Ah, LORD GOD! I know not how to speak; I am too young.”
Jeremiah did not feel capable but God did not accept Jeremiah’s fear. Instead, God reassured Jeremiah saying, “Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you.” Jeremiah 1:8
Scripture is full of passages where God tells us to have no fear because He is with us. Matthew ends his Gospel with Jesus making this promise to the Apostles: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b
The second part of today’s reading can be taken in more than one way but it is also a continuation of God reassuring Jeremiah in spite of those who will oppose him. God said, “Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them.” In today’s lingo, God said, “Chill, I got your back!”
Not only are we capable of doing anything that God wants us to do—no one and nothing can stop us because God will stop anyone who stands in our way and shove aside anything that is in our way. If God has our backs, we are covered and there is nothing more absolute than that.
God’s constant reassurance is a demonstration of His faith in us. He knows that if we put our faith in Him and do as He wishes; we will accomplish all.
There are two important things to remember about all of this. First, God does not need us to do anything for Him. God is the Almighty! God can do anything and everything all by Himself. God uses us because He loves us. God wants us to be a part of Him and everything that He does and ultimately, God wants us to share an eternal life with Him in Heaven.
Second, the difference between Jeremiah and ourselves when we can’t seem to see anything go right is that Jeremiah ultimately put his faith in God. That is why he was able to go and deliver God’s Word just as God wanted him to against all odds. All to often, we fail to put our faith in God. Sometimes, we seem to trust everything and/or everyone but God.
God has a plan for each of us and each of us has a God-given opportunity to carry out God’s plan against all odds. So yes, we should chill because God has our backs.
Without Love, There Is Nothing
Second Reading Commentary: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:1-13
Today’s second reading begins with St. Paul telling us that if we do not have love, we have nothing. That is a very profound statement because it means that no matter how hard we may strive to be holy carrying out God’s Will, without love, we accomplish nothing. All of our faith, all of our hope and all of our prayers are incomplete without love and therefore, we have nothing.
If you think about it, Jesus told us this truth when He was asked, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Matthew 22:36 The answer that Jesus gave was to love God and to love neighbor and He said, “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
In essence, Jesus was saying that we cannot obey the law if we do not love. The question is why: but let’s take a look at how Paul describes love first.
Paul explains love by telling us what love is and what love is not. Take what Paul says and put it into your life. If you are like me, you must admit that to love is a very difficult thing to do.
It is hard to be patient with someone who is constantly testing our nerves. It is hard to be kind to someone who is being mean to us. It is hard to not be jealous of someone who always seems to fall into a bed of roses no matter how undeserving they are. It is hard to not be pompous when we know that we are right. It is hard to not be quick tempered when someone is constantly doing things to annoy us. It is hard to not brood over injury when the person who has hurt us has no remorse. It is hard to not rejoice over wrongdoing when we see someone who has hurt us or has hurt others get what they deserve even if it did come in a wrongful way. We usually say something like, “They had it coming to them.” Finally, it is hard to rejoice in the truth if the truth is not what we want to hear. It is equally as hard to accept someone else refusing to rejoice over the truth because they do not want to hear it. It is indeed hard to love!
Paul said that love, “bears all things, believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things.” I take that as Paul’s description of how to love. But sometimes people make it impossible for us to follow Paul’s advice and we are left with no recourse but to let them go.
Think about it. The only true and perfect love is God’s love. This is evident by the fact that God does bear all things and He endures all things. God never pushes us away. But we do separate ourselves from Him if we fail to love Him and if that is our choice, God will let us go. If that were not true, there would be no hell.
Our love cannot be perfect because we are not perfect. But we can strive to do our best to love with truth from the heart. God does not expect any more or less from us than our very best and when we give our best loving from the heart, love never fails.
Why does love never fail? Because where there is love, there is God and God is love! That is the reason why we cannot obey the commandments without love. No matter how hard we may try, if we do not have love, we do not have God and if we do not have God, we have nothing.
Slip Away and Be with God
Gospel Commentary: Luke 4:21-30
This week’s gospel is the continuation of last week’s gospel which is Luke’s account of Jesus reading from the scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah which began, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” He sat down and everyone looked intently at Him and Jesus said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
At first, the people were amazed at what Jesus had to say but they asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” Jesus had just proclaimed His divinity and identity as the Son of Man to the people in Nazareth. They could not and would not accept His proclamation because they could only see Jesus as a carpenter’s son and not as a scholar, teacher or rabbi. They certainly did not think of Jesus as a prophet, let alone, the Son of Man—the Messiah.
Put this into context with what Paul teaches us today about love and it is obvious that even though the people in Nazareth knew who Jesus was, they did not love Him. They were pompous and they did not rejoice in the truth. They did not even want to hear it.
This was still very early in Jesus’ ministry so one could argue that the people needed more than this to believe. Whether you make that argument or not, the fact is that the people of Nazareth had hard hearts and chose not to listen. None of us can say that we need more proof because it is all recorded in the gospels. We have no excuse—we do have the gift of faith and we have to use it.
According to Luke, Jesus said, “Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum…Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Here, Jesus was saying, “You should know better” because you know of the great works that occurred in Capernaum and that the people of Capernaum have accepted Me but you, My own people; reject Me.
The point that Jesus was making is that the whole world can listen to what we have to say and know that we are telling the truth but those who are close to us will not listen because they will have closed ears and closed minds out of jealousy. The people were jealous which, is more proof that the people of Nazareth did not love Jesus.
We have all experienced times when those who know us or are close to us do not want to listen to what we have to say. They do not believe that we know what we are talking about and no matter how correct we may be or how much proof we may give; we just as well talk to the wall. So, it was with Jesus that day.
Luke tells us that Jesus reminded the people of Elijah being sent to the widow in Zarephath, 1 Kings 17:17-24, and Elisha cleansing Naaman the Syrian, 2 Kings 5:1-15. When the people heard this, they became furious.
Have you ever been in the position of trying to help a friend or family member with good advice only to be greeted with hostility for your efforts? This is the devil at work bringing on chaos by influencing us to be at odds with each other. He does it on every level and in every aspect of our lives. Why? Because: the devil is the opposite of God. Where God is love—the devil is hatred.
Everything that Jesus said or did had a purpose and comes with a message. Today’s message is: love. Paul tells us that without love, we have nothing. But take a look at how Jesus teaches us by how he deals with the people in Nazareth that with His love, we have everything.
The people were filled with fury and drove Jesus out of town and wanted to throw Him head first off of a hill. Luke tells us, “But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.”
Now we can look at this and say, “Of course Jesus slipped away. He is God and can do anything.” Or, we can say, “Of course Jesus slipped away. He was at the beginning of His ministry here on earth and it was not His time to suffer for our sake.”
These things are both true but in the context of today’s liturgy, there is another message. When God has our backs and we are filled with His love, there is nothing and no one that can hurt us because we have everything that we need! We will slip away and be with Him.