4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Vinner)
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this 4th Sunday in Ordinary time, the church reminds us that we are privileged to be called by God to be his prophets. Through our baptism as Christians, God called each one of us to take His word and proclaim it to the world. However, we cannot succeed in this call without love for God, the Word, and the people of God. Hence, in spite of all the difficulties associated with this call, love must motivate us to continue.
The focus of today’s first reading is principally on a call to action, and to proclaim the good news to all the nations. This call is both an imperative and a privilege given to us by God. This mission is very important to God. Hence, He warns us: Do not be afraid or in their presence, I will make you dismayed. On the other hand, He promises to provide the strength and protection we require to accomplish our call: “I for my own part today will make you into a fortified city, a pillar of iron, and a wall of bronze to confront all these land.
These simply show that the call to this prophetic ministry is not solely our business. Rather, it is a collaborative ministry between God and us. We make ourselves available, while God provides the strength and protection. He is the owner of the message and the mission. He will also provide all that it takes to succeed in his mission.
One very important point to note in this reading is the fact that God did not call us by accident. Rather, He reflected on it very well before calling us. He knew each one of us personally and still knows us now very well. Also, he knows what he wants us to do for him. Hence, He calls us by our personal names and reminds us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I have appointed you as the prophet of the nations. This means that we are not strangers to God and His call. He does not call strangers to his mission, but those he knows personally.
In our second reading today Paul reminds us that the “impetus agitat” or driving force for this prophetic mission must be the following cardinal virtues: Love, Faith and Hope. Faith in God sustains us in our prophetic ministry in spite of the obstacles we encounter. Also hope in a bright future motivates us to remain focused, and to believe that our efforts will not be in vain. A prophet or Christian who has these cardinal virtues will succeed in his ministry.
Saint Augustine of Hippo once said: “Love and do whatever you want to do.” This simply means that love is the greatest and most important of these virtues. If love is not at the base of our mission, all our efforts might be in vain. A prophet who lacks love for God, the good news, and for the people he is called to prophesy is a clashing cymbal. Love must motivate us God’s initiative to be his prophets for the salvation of all nations and people.
In today’s gospel, Christ demonstrated prophetic love. Therefore, it was not difficult for him to win the approval of the people: “…He won the approval of all and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. Without these gracious words motivated by love for the salvation of the people, all his efforts would have been in vain. It is also important to point out that life is not always easy for a true prophet. He faces oppositions, persecutions castigations, rejections, and even threats to his life. In spite of all these, Christ did not relent. Instead, he continued to cherish God’s call. Like Christ, we must continue to love and cherish the people while remaining faithful to God who called us. As those called to be prophets and missionaries we must be committed to the good news.
So, we are privileged to be called by God to be his prophets. That is, to take his words and proclaim it to people of all nations. We must do this both through the words of our mouths, and through our actions. So, it is important to know that a prophet or missionary without commitment to the good news is simply a tourist. Therefore with the psalmist, let us renew our commitment to God by proclaiming: “My lips will tell of your justice and of your help day by day. O God, you have taught me from my youth, and I will still proclaim your wonders.”
We need to face rejection with prophetic courage and optimism. Perhaps we have experienced the pain of rejection, betrayal, abandonment, violated trust, neglect or abuse, even from friends and family members, when we reached out to them as God’s agents of healing and saving grace. Perhaps we ourselves are guilty of such rejection. Perhaps we, too, have been guilty of ignoring or humiliating people with our arrogance and prejudice. Let us learn to correct our mistakes and face rejection from others with courage
Let us not, like the people in Jesus’ hometown, reject God in our lives. We reject God when we are unwilling to be helped by God, or by others. Such unwillingness prevents us from recognizing God’s directions, help and support in our lives through His words in the Bible, through the teaching of the Church, and through the advice and examples of others. 3) We need to follow Christ, not political correctness, and to speak the truth of Christ without being hypocritical or disrespectful. We must never remain silent in the face of evil for fear of being thought “politically incorrect.” Jesus taught us to love and respect others without condoning or encouraging sinful behavior. We need to be kind, charitable, honest and forgiving, but clear in speaking out our Christian convictions as Jesus was when he spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth.
May God Bless us.
FR. S.Vinner HGN