One of the themes of this Sunday's readings is the rejection a messenger of God will suffer, especially in his hometown and among his own kind. And yet, those earnestly called by God will press on with love; and when rejected by their own, will take God's message to those of other nations.
In our first reading (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19), we hear the call of Jeremiah - God's own words as he called him forth to be his messenger. God knew Jeremiah even before he was in the womb; and he knew of the suffering and rejection Jeremiah would endure. "'I am with you to deliver you', says the Lord."
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.
In our Gospel reading (Luke 4:21-30), we pick up right where we left off last Sunday. Jesus proclaimed himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah's messianic prophesy, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." After these words sunk in and they realized, this is the Jesus we grew up with, they were enraged. Jesus explained to them the history of the prophets, having been rejected, took their ministry to other nations. On hearing this, they were "filled with fury" and "rose up, drove him out of town." God delivered him, just as he delivered Jeremiah.
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.
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13), we hear St. Paul's famous discourse on love. Throughout, Paul uses the Greek word Agape, which is defined as the highest form of love; the love of God for man and man for God. It is often read at weddings.
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.
If one were to read today's Epistle and substitute the word "God" for every word "Love", and every word "it", we could get a sense of who God is - God IS Love. We would also get a sense of how we are in the image of God; for we have the capacity to love, the capacity to be like God. And as for the rejection we might receive along our way for being God's messenger - mere child's play to those who love - who completely will the good of the other. For the true servant heart is oblivious of the sacrifice.
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