The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C): January 30, 2022
|Jesus is driven out of the synagogue in Nazareth|
The liturgical calendar of this week has been very rich with the celebration of the life of many saints, namely, Sts Francis de Sales, Timothy and Titus, Angela Merici, Thomas Aquinas and the Conversion of St Paul. We need such holy men and women to inspire us when things go bad in us or when we get bored with the things which do not seem to have changed. Each saint that we remembered had something special to contribute towards the growth of our Church or humanity in general. St Thomas Aquinas (1227-1274) is one of the splendid personalities that the Church produced in the medieval ages. His contribution to the intellectual life of the Church in general and global human civilization, in particular, is immense. He is known to have combined both reason and faith in his thought process in order to assent to truth. We might not use his Summa Theologiae very much in our daily life but certainly, his beautiful hymns that he composed for Corpus Christi are still on our tongues like Tantum Ergo Sacramentum, Panis Angelicus, etc. This Sunday, the liturgical readings too have such a bent of Aquinas where they call us for something different and invite us to follow and live the truth.
1. Jesus purifies all that is false
The gospel reading (Luke 4:21–30) from St Luke is the continuation of last Sunday. Jesus is in his hometown synagogue. Probably, until now Jesus must have been an active listener. But today, after reading the scroll of Isaiah which is known as the Nazareth Manifesto, Jesus begins to speak from the pulpit and explains its relevance and significance. The great works of prophets Elijah and Elisha do not interest his townsfolk instead pricks their conscience very badly. Such behaviour of Jesus which must have been contrary to the existing rules was quickly called into question. Moreover, Jesus quickly picks up the murmuring of the people and begins to substantiate his arguments on his role in their society by narrating the episodes from the Old Testament. People become furious and hostile. Instead of peace and tranquillity in the Lord's house, anger and frustration grow among the attendees. The truth is not allowed to be heard. Jesus is simply kicked out of the temple.
Perhaps the reality of our life is such that we would like to hear only what our ears like to hear. Truth hurts. When truth is spoken, we dislike it because it calls for some sacrifice or change, for which we might not be ready yet. Often our ideas and identity are built on false propagandas of the religion. An unpurified religion or a religion that is constructed on the whims and fancies of the secular and temporary power structures does not allow to hear the truth that religion speaks about. What runs the religion is the hierarchy of power. People who are below are just slaves to follow the diktats of the so-called seniors, elders and learned. Therefore, critical thinking is disliked, truth is banished, analyses are avoided, meaningless rituals, customs and hierarchy are encouraged and allowed to sit on the thrones. Where do we belong here? Have I noticed it in my own religion or in other religions?
2. God plans for each one of us
God speaks from the mouth of Prophet Isaiah: '“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord' (Isaiah 55:8). That is the way of God's going about in this world. Prophet Jeremiah receives the Word of God, in fact, His call to serve Him in unexpected ways. "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" (Jeremiah 1:1-2). These words speak of a deep and intimate knowing of our being by God. The timid and nervous prophet Jeremia could not even believe in himself and his abilities to be a prophet and speak the truth. Often it is easy to speak the false and not the truth. It is cozy to be hidden in the falsehood than in the authenticity.
Probably, often we run into conflicts because they are within ourselves. We do not know ourselves even after many years of studies, living, readings, reasoning, experiences, etc. We are happy with what others say about us. That is where we close ourselves, enter within our shell like a tortoise without giving us an opportunity to grow or see the truth in the Lord. Thus turning our lives into battlegrounds. In fact, the battles that are fought within ourselves. Bible is full of stories, where God made individuals and people great. He gave them dignity, power and grace. Such individuals found the battleground outside where the tyranny of anger, resistance, jealousy, sloth, fear, frustration, false claims, distortions of real situations, self-serving propaganda, perjury, lying, subjugation, demonic possession, obsession, oppression, attack, manipulation, where devil dwells and wickedness reigns. Prophets picked up such evil intents in society and inside the household and called for purification and repentance. They said that each individual is precious and called for grace and for a grace-filled life. Perhaps, we could ask ourselves where we are in this area of knowing ourselves and of God.
3. Authentic love wins all
Heavenly Father, thank you for these prayers, scriptures and words of Godly discernment, wisdom and encouragement that you have given us. Help us cling tightly to the truth of Your Word in the Bible and let go of the ideas in the world, our culture and our own thinking. Fill us with your Holy-Spirit love, for we simply don’t have enough love on our own.
Gracious God, when we are offended, help us to remember Jesus, who was more highly offended, insulted and betrayed than anyone and yet loved to the end. Help us abide in Christ minute by minute, so we may grow in the fruit of His Spirit. Strengthen us so that we may give without counting the cost, and have the humility to celebrate your works in others. Grant that we may never turn away from you or our neighbour. We make this prayer in Jesus' Holy Name. AMEN.