YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: JESUS EXPERIENCES REJECTION
BY: Fr. Damian Ikemefuna Ozokwere cssp
HOMILY: (Jer. 1:4-5,17-19, Ps.71, 1Cor.12:31:13 & Lk. 4:21-30)
In the Gospel reading of last Sunday we heard Jesus’ inaugural mission address in the synagogue of Nazareth. Reading from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah: that the Holy Spirit has anointed him as the Messiah to bring the Good News to the poor, new sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed. When he had finished reading, he then began to speak to the people, that, that very passage was being fulfilled in their presence. He spoke so well that he won the approval and admiration of many who marvelled at the gracious words that came from his lips.
However, this admiration seems to be a shallow one and didn’t last because in today’s gospel reading which is a continuation of last Sunday’s, the people now suddenly turned to wonder in the spirit of disbelief and rejection, that, ‘This is Joseph’s son surely?, and they would not accept him.
In response Jesus tells them that, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country. He confronts their indifference and unbelief with an apparent rebuke and compliments the Gentiles (non-Jews) who had shown more faith in God than the “chosen ones” of Israel, by citing examples with two memorable events in their history.
Firstly, in Elijah’s day when there was a terrible famine in the land for three and half years. The prophet Elijah was sent to none of the widows in Israel but to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian foreign town. There, through Elijah, God wrought a miracle that, the poor widow’s last bit of flour meal and oil were infinitely multiplied. Secondly, in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of them was cured by Elisha, except Naaman the army commander from the foreign country of Syria, (2 Kings 5:1-15). All these were as a result of the people’s disbelief and rejection of God’s intervention in their midst. They were blind-sighted to God’s merciful plan of salvation for all the nations.
When the people of Nazareth heard the above two references made by Jesus, they felt offended and became more hostile, that, they even made an attempt to kill Jesus, intending to throw him down the cliff but Jesus slipped through the crowd and walked away. Why did they react that way? One may ask. The pious and upright Jews of Jesus time erroneously believed that all who suffer misery were sinners and had no favour with God. The Gentiles or non-Jews were even worse off. They were assumed to be “the fuel for the fires of hell”, and have no chance of salvation. It was only the upright of Jewish descent, who would be the privileged ones to be saved.
And now, for Jesus to make those two references, not only challenges their false presumptions but it also implies that the non-Jews (people of other nations) who would later accept Jesus as the Messiah in place of the Jews, stand a better chance of salvation. So this made them so angry that they had to do away with Jesus.
Certainly, true love of God is lacking in their hearts because to reject Jesus is to reject the love of God. Love remains a familiar vocabulary which many play with and write about everyday but it’s meaning and practice continues to elude us. We continue to wonder with the question, “What is love?”.
In our second reading of today taken from 1Cor.13:1-13, St Paul presents us a hymn of love. Here he presents love as the highest and the only spiritual gift that lasts forever. Every other gifts would one day cease but love remains. From verses 4-7, Paul out lines for us the characteristics of love or how we can easily identify what love is and invariably what love is not.
Listen to him! Love is always patient and kind. It is never jealous. He is never boastful or arrogant. It is never rude or selfish. Love does not take offense and It doesn’t keep record of offence (resentful). It takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth. Love excuses all things, believes, hopes and endures all things.
As St John the beloved apostle teaches that ‘God is Love’, therefore, whoever desires to know what true love is and to live by it, must according to the mystics embrace the person of Jesus. Because for the mystics love is a person and that person is Jesus and if you really want to be an authentic lover, believe in Jesus, welcome him into your life and try to live like him, 1Jn2:6.
Reflections by Damian Ikemefuna Ozokwere cssp