4th Sunday Ordinary C
Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; Ps 71:1-6, 15-17; 1 Cor 12:31-13:13; Lk 4:21-30
(Scriptures included after homily)
“Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,
graciously grant peace in our days,
that by the help of your mercy,
we may be always free from sin and
safe from all distress…”
Today’s Scriptures speak to us about hearts, heads, evil and deliverance.
Both St. Paul’s ‘Discourse on Love’ and the prophet Jeremiah’s ‘Calling by God,’
warm our heads with comfort, hope and confidence.
And yet, the challenge we see to Jeremiah’s faith, in a land of infidelity,
and the lack of faith we see in Jesus’ neighbors, in His own hometown of Nazareth,
can also chill us to the roots, to the very core of our hearts.
Which then prompts the questions, “What is the gravity of our own faith?”
“What is it, that we truly believe, when we profess that Creed, immediately after this homily?”
You see, the gravity, the weight, the challenge, the difficulty with this whole concept of Christianity is that, unlike sunshine and daisies, chocolate and ice cream, not everyone likes, believes-in, or is even tolerant of our Faith. And yet, we Christians are still –
called to love everyone!
The truth of the matter, is that there certainly is evil in the world. And unless our faith is strong, and its roots burrow deep down into our hearts, that evil just may win our heads over to its side. And of course, we know that ‘where our heads go, there goes the rest of us.’
When we look a little closer, we find, in fact, that there really is ‘more’ to our faith than
just that ‘look pretty’, ‘warm fuzzy’, head stuff. Søren Kierkegaard calls that ‘more,’
“The Works of Love,” because without ‘the Works’, it’s not – truly Love at all. And St. Paul defines those ‘works’ with terms like: patience and humility, forbearance, kindness, and integrity, temperance, endurance and belief.
That connection between our heads and our hearts is so crucial to recognizing God’s constant presence in our lives, that without it, we’ll surely miss His merciful and loving deliverance from evil, just as the neighbors of Jesus did in Nazareth.
This whole ‘Head and Heart’ discussion reminded me of a pine tree that used to live
in our front yard. It was one of eleven, brother and sister, white pines that grew there over the past 19-years. To the head (to the eye and the mind), all of those trees looked fairly healthy, full and green.
And then a few days before this past Christmas, we had some wet, heavy snow, and a strong wind, that hand-selected-out this one, particular, 40-foot tree, to be uprooted, and carefully dropped between two neighboring saplings, for immediate death.
You see, with the long, hot and extremely dry summer we just experienced, the heart of that tree, its surface roots, were no longer strong enough to give it support when it was finally confronted with the challenge of a wicked and evil wind.
Yet, there by the Grace of God, we found that the two neighboring pines, the two saplings, two infant bushes, and two adjacent driveways, were all “delivered,”
in complete safety, from the consequences of that same evil wind, the toppled and disconnected tree. The moral of the story, of course, being that, “Looks aren’t everything. It’s what’s in the heart, that really matters.”
You see, deliverance requires connection
between the heart and the head.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus had just finished reading the Words of the Prophet Isaiah that spoke of Israel’s long-awaited Messiah. St. Luke tells us that the whole congregation was amazed at His gracious Words. You see, those Words resonated with something deep inside their hearts. Something that they may not have even realized was there. It was the ‘Spark of God’s Love.’ And their immediate and involuntary response was Praise.
You see, their hearts knew the Truth and their mouths responded in Joy!
Unfortunately, then their heads had to contribute their ‘two-cents’ too. And those (disconnected) heads came out with words like, “Yeah, but wait a minute here.” “Isn’t that just plain old Jesus?” “And who does He think He is anyway?” Funny, same thing happened to Eve in the Garden of Eden, when she was tempted by that same evil and responded, “Yeah. But…” And both situations eventually led from Doubt (Adam and Eve’s lost of trust, of faith in God – Original Sin) – to Fury (Cain’s jealous anger against Abel) – to Murder (Cain’s murder of Abel) – to Death (of Abel and of all mankind, caused by Adam and Eve’s sin) and then, to even more evil.
So what about us?
Ever come face-to-face, eye-to-eye, with evil?
It can be quite frightening when
it’s seen in another person,
or in an act of violence,
or even, just, in a thought.
The question is, “Is that Spark of God’s Love in our hearts strong enough to overcome it?” Have we engraved into both our hearts and our heads, those words that God encouraged, a hesitant, Prophet Jeremiah with, when He said:
“They will fight against you,
but they will not prevail over you,
for I, the Lord, am with you,
to deliver you from evil.”
You see, that Love of God; a Love for us that existed before we were even born; that Love, is always there to strengthen and deliver us from every evil, IF . . .
IF, in Faith, we allow that Love to unite our hearts and our heads, and
if we do those ‘works’ required to strengthen it; our Spiritual Exercise.
Jesus saw the weakness in the faith of His hometown neighbors from Nazareth. That Spark of God’s Love in them, just did not connect anything. Their roots were dry. Their synagogue attendance was all just a ‘feel-good,’ ‘head-show,” because when the pride, the jealousy, the doubt and the rationalization in their heads took over, their love and faith became so lost, they became so distant from their God, that their behavior was anything but rational. And the result was a riotous mob, “a fallen tree in the face of a storm, named evil.”
And there, in the total chaos of it all, St. Luke tells us, that Jesus
“passed right through the midst of them, and went away.”
God will always deliver us from evil,
when our hearts and our heads
are linked in faith and love.
Ever come face-to-face, eye-to-eye, with LOVE?
It can be quite exhilarating, actually breathtaking, when
it’s seen in another person,
or in an act of charity,
or even, just, in a thought.
The question is, “Is that Spark of God’s Love in your hearts strong enough to experience it?”
Just look around brothers and sisters in Christ
(in our Church, in the Crucifix, in the Altar of the Eucharist, and in one another).
It’s ALL around you!
Scripture Readings for the Mass of 02-03-13
Fourth Sunday Ordinary Time C
First Reading: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19
The word of the LORD came to me, saying: 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.
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; 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. They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 71:1-6, 15-17
R. I will sing of your salvation
In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me; incline your ear to me, and save me.
Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for you are my rock and my fortress. O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
For you are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
My mouth shall declare your justice, day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Second Reading: 1 Cor 12:31-13:13
Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. 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. 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.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
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. 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.
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.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Gospel: Lk 4:21-30
Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” 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?”
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.’”
And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
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. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
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.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. 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 Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.