January 28, 2007, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time is Bible Sunday.
Gospel: 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. (Luke 4:21-30).
Jeremiah is the second of the four great prophets of Israel, after Isaiah; together with Ezekiel and Daniel; and a contemporary of Zephaniah, Nahum and Habakkuk. Jeremiah was destined to the office of prophet before his birth and called by God to be a prophet at the age of 19. He remained unmarried and celibate by order of Yahweh (Jeremiah 16:2). Isaiah was called before he was born (Isaiah 49:1) and Jesus was declared to be holy before he was born (Luke 1:35). Jeremiah is the classic example of the rejected prophet. The Book of Jeremiah combines history, biography, and prophecy.
Our reading for today comes from the prologue which gives account of his calling, a dialogue between Yahweh and Jeremiah. "The Word of the Lord came to me..." was a common form of speech by the Old Testament prophets defining the prophetic message not simply as a word but also as an event. "Before I formed you...." Depicts God as a potter, creator (Genesis 2:7-8; Isaiah 64:8; Romans 9:20). After Jeremiah, it became an accepted idea that God Himself forms the child in its mother's womb. God is the unique master from the very first moment of our existence (Job 10:8-12; Psalm 139:13). The "girding of loins" can mean immediate action (Exodus 12:11) or immediate preparation for combat (Job 38:3; 40:7).
Reading 1: 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. (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19)
Psalm 71 is an individual lament. The afflicted one flees to God and prays for deliverance. Yahweh is the 'eternal rock' and the Psalmist depended on Yahweh from birth. The Lord is the 'fortress' of all who are in distress and in danger. The psalm ends in praise and thanksgiving for his/her deliverance.
Responsorial Psalm: I will sing of your salvation. In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue me, and deliver me; incline your ear to me, and save me. Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for you are my rock and my fortress. O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked. For you are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my mother's womb you are my strength. My mouth shall declare your justice, day by day your salvation. O God, you have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds. I will sing of your salvation. (Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17).
The Second Reading is a great hymn of love. Prophecies, the gifts of tongues and knowledge will end and only faith, hope and love will remain. Of the three theological virtues, love (charity) in Greek - agape - is the most important. Love is greater than the gifts of tongues and it is love that generates our spiritual gifts. Love is the way of the Christians. In God we are known in love and we come to know his love fully, completely and totally.
Reading II: 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. (1 Corinthian 12:31-13:13).
There are 72 books in the Bible and only two were not written by Jews: Luke and its second volume Acts. Both of these were written by Luke, a Syrian convert and disciple of Paul. Luke's theme is fulfillment promise.
"Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing," Jesus has come to understand the call that was made explicit to him in his baptism and the words spoken from heaven as the fulfillment of the words of Isaiah regarding the anointing by the Spirit of Yahweh (Luke 3:15-22). Jesus proclaimed in the synagogue the prediction of the Messiah from the book of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. He is a blasphemer.
"Is this not Joseph's son?" - the cold reception and the expressions of scorn from his hometown folks will become part of the rejection motif in Luke. The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus on the basis that he was only Joseph's son (Matthew 23; Mark 6). The leaders and the people in Jerusalem rejected Jesus because of the claim that he was the "King of the Jews, the Messiah" (Luke 23).
Capernaum was a town with a large non-Jewish population. Elijah and Elisha both ministered to non-Jews, namely to the Sidonian widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-14) and Naaman, the Syrian (2 Kings 5:1-19). "No prophet is accepted in his own native place" anticipates the mission and witness of Jesus and the Church reaching out to the Gentiles and to the end of the world. The phrase "AMEN" always introduces a solemn declaration uttered only by Jesus in the Gospels In the Revised Standard Version: Matthew 30 times, Mark 13 times, Luke 7 times and John 25 times.
Migrants are the prophets of today - rejected both in their hometowns and everywhere else. They are labeled as "new heroes and heroines" yet after years of hard work abroad they come home with very little protection, health benefits and pensions. Many migrants are crying out for justice and they want their voices heard, and yet our government and other institutions are deaf to their pleas save for their remittances. At times, it is their own family - spouse, children, parents and siblings - that squanders their hard-earned resources. Our churches, mosques and temples too are lagging behind in responding to the "new exodus" in our midst. There is much rhetoric but very little concrete action to protect, respect and ensure the lives and future of migrant workers and their family.
We must remain steadfast in our faith even when resisted, rejected and condemned. When we feel abandoned and left "hanging in the cross," we must not succumb to despair and utter hopelessness. Our God is the God of hope and love. Our God is patient, kind and bears all things. Our God is the God of justice and truth, our fortress that shields us from the hand of the wicked.
Our God is the God who does not hold his love. Our God will not leave us hanging and waiting. Today, we are forgiven and welcome back. "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). Today, our healing must begin. Today, we learn to accept who we are, learn to let go, forgive and love again. Today, is the day of our liberation from fear, oppression, shame and guilt, addiction and sickness. Yahweh assured Jeremiah that "They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you." Love in the end will prevail according to Saint Paul. Jesus fulfilled that new life and new beginning for us, our family and community today. Amen.
Gud evening po father! I arrived in Taiwan 5 months ago, and I got to read the Taiwan News for the first time this morning. My friend lent it to me. In my five months in Taiwan, I had only two half-days off from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. I wanted to go to Church but I did not have enough time. I would like to have a Bible. Please pray for me. I am happy there is Taiwan News helping migrants. Salamat po. - Len
Good evening Father. I just want to thank you for sharing us your reflection and prayers in Kabayan. I want to seek your help. Please pray for me and my employer so that I could stay in Taiwan until I completed my contract. Thank you po.
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January 28, 2007, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time is Bible Sunday.