February 3, 2013 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jer 1: 4-5, 17-19; Ps 71: 1-6, 15-17; 1 Cor 12:31-13:13; Lk 4:21-30
The readings for this Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time are so rich in content that they include some of the most quoted passages, sentences, and phrases in all of scripture. Because they are utilized so often, each of them sometimes stands alone, but each lends itself to thoughtful and careful consideration and meditation — and because they are placed together, we need to look for the connection.
Jeremiah means “Yahweh” — God. He reveals early in the prologue to his book that he was chosen in the womb by God to be a prophet. However, the particular passage, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jer 1:4), reminds each of us that God has a plan for us, and He has known it from before we were conceived. Our challenge as stewards is to discern that plan as best we can, and to follow it. That means each of us has a role, a purpose, in building the Kingdom of God. Our lives should be defined by our search for that vocation and our following it to fruition.
Of, course, the second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is so familiar to most of us because it is often used as part of marriage ceremonies, anniversaries, and any other event which focuses on the theme of love. It is much more than a definition of what good and holy love is nonetheless. Again it lays out for us a formula to be good Catholic Christians, and it sums it up as eloquently as anyone can. Chapter 13 focuses on what Paul calls a “digression on charity/love.”
Some translations use faith, hope, and love and others utilize faith, hope, and charity. Paul originally wrote this epistle in Greek and the word he used was “agape.” Agape is defined as a type of love, which reflects good will, affection, and benevolence. Thus it was translated into Latin as Caritas, which means Christian love or Christian charity, as opposed to sexual love. It is love in its purest form. In fact, many scripture scholars feel Paul was taking faith, hope, and love to another level — that is, in the Heavenly Kingdom there would be no need for faith or hope, but love would still abound. In other words, “So faith, hope, and love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13)
Not to be outdone, Luke’s Gospel recounts Jesus speaking in the temple in Nazareth. As is the case with the other two readings one of the most quoted sentences in scripture, or for that matter anywhere, is part of this passage: “No prophet is accepted in his own native place.” It is written in many ways, but the heart of the message remains the same. We are called to see the connection between this reading and Paul’s message in his letter. That is — Jesus’ does not respond in anger or revenge or an attempt to reason with what He sees as a crowd, which is not interested in anything else He may say. He calmly loves them and moves through them to depart.
So the three readings tie closely together — in the first reading we are urged to identify our own role as Christian stewards; the second reading makes it clear that love of those around us is the way to live out that mission; and the Gospel makes it plain that there will be obstacles, but our proper response is indeed love.