Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah’s reading today is a description of divine intimacy between God and man, between the Creator and the created. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” God knows us through and through. One cannot hide from God, and need not even try. The Lord gives Jeremiah his strength. He “fortifies” Jeremiah to stand before the land of Israel and its leaders as a “pillar of iron, a wall of brass.” Intimacy with God is not easy. We forget often that true love requires obligation and sacrifice. It wasn’t easy for the prophet Jeremiah to stand before Israel’s leaders and to challenge their complacency. He did this out of love. He loved God and willingly carried out the mission God gave him. Such is the true love of God. It enables a person to bear any burden.
St. Paul declares this of love; it never fails. It “bears all things.” St. Paul encourages his audience to “strive for the greatest spiritual gifts.” Then he adds that there is “a more excellent way.” That is, a better way to live as a disciple of Jesus. St. Paul the Apostle dramatically declares that if he does anything, speaks in “human and angelic tongues” and has faith to “move mountains,” but does not have love, he is nothing. Love is everlasting, surviving all other spiritual gifts and signs. St. Therese of Lisieux recognized this as doing all things with great love. She called it the “little way.”
Jesus carries this mission to his childhood home of Nazareth. He spoke in the synagogue where he grew up. He declares to them that the prophecy of the Anointed One, who brings good news to the poor, and liberty to the captives, is fulfilled in their hearing. He knows that this is a message they won’t want to hear. He tells them that a prophet is not accepted “in his native place.” We may wonder what Jesus was thinking when he leveled some hard truths towards his own hometown crowd. They didn’t take kindly to this and led him to the brow of the hill. Living a Christian life comes with certain demands. Those who are close to God will face rejection. This is never easy. At the same time, God consoles us. He strengthens us. He guides us. He loves us. We can always trust in God because we know “love never fails.”
Reflection by Br. Matthew Marie, OSB