C Cycle – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
Jesus was never one to refrain from speaking directly to anyone. It did not matter if he was attempting to get their attention or if they were challenge him, testing him or avoiding responding to his words. He called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs (Mt.23:27). To the woman at the well he told her the man she was living with was not her husband (Jn.4:18). To the young man who wanted the key to obtaining everlasting life, he said go sell all you have and follow me (Lk.18:22). To the crowds he said if you lust you are committing adultery. In today’s gospel he reveals to his town He the carpenter’s son is the Messiah.
If we were that direct today, we would be criticized and considered insensitive or politically incorrect. Since we do not want to be “cancelled,” we avoid tough topics. We avoid discussions about politics, religion, COVID, vaccines, mandates, CRT, law enforcement, climate change and many other topics. That is fine if our only objective is to not argue, to get along because we have family members or close friends with deeply held convictions and are unwilling to compromise.
But are we willing to talk about issues of faith, belief, and God’s plan for our lives? If believe the scriptures are God speaking to us today then we cannot remain silent about faith, belief, and society today. In our first reading we are told we are called to be prophets from the moment we are born. The scriptures are clear when they tell us we were created for a purpose and that purpose is to proclaim the kingdom of God. That is the very concept Peter was repeating when he said “…each one has been given a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God’” (1 Pt. 4:10).
Paul the great apostle learned that lesson when Christ challenged him on the road to Damascus. On that day Christ posed a question to Paul about why he with all his learning and training in the scriptures could not get past his own opinion of Christ not being the Messiah. That challenge by Christ changed him and he became the great evangelist proclaiming Jesus and we are called to do the same. Paul tells us to, “…preach the word in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort with great patience” (1 Tim:4:2). That is not a formula for getting along, but it is one of speaking the truth in love. That my brothers and sisters is not a popular position for anyone of us.
Jeremiah did not hold back and did not avoid saying the hard things people needed to hear. He followed the promptings of God and went to the people and told them Jerusalem would fall and they would be sent into exile. Their response was to beat him, chastise him and ultimately throw him “into a cistern” to kill him (Jer. 38:6). It is not a popular thing to rebuke, exhort or speak the truth in love to anyone. Minds are set, often stubbornly entrenched holding to an image of Jesus that is based on past experiences. It is very hard to change that kind of mindset. Jesus experiences this when he goes back to Nazareth, his hometown and they could not get beyond the image of him as the carpenter’s son. Nothing special about him at all so why should you pay attention to him.
There is a common thread connecting the people Jeremiah was speaking to and the people listening to Jesus that day. They had a belief that they were in God’s grace and did not need to change. They were good people, following the laws, keeping the Sabbath, giving their tithe, and serving one another. Their response was to ignore their words and to take action to ensure they were not able to challenge them again. They threw Jeremiah into a muddy cistern and the people of Nazareth intended to throw Jesus off a cliff. Yet, both Jeremiah and Jesus never stopped challenging the people to elicit a respond, to show them the heart of God and to live the life God desired them to live.
We today live in a divided society seeming unwilling to listen to anyone who does not agree with their point of view. If we are ever going to return to a unified society, we cannot remain silent about the peace, unity, and comfort we experience by embracing Christ as Lord. At our baptism we are anointed into the body of Christ, priest, prophet, and king. We are anointed to bring the gospel message of Jesus to others. That means we cannot remain silent as we try to get along. We must be bold witnesses of the forgiveness and love of God. We must be more than just good people, good Catholics, remaining silent about embracing Jesus. God requires us to do more than worry about our own souls, he took care of that when he sent us Jesus.
We are called to go and spread the good news that God is in our land, in our midst and offering us life, joy and peace. We are called to share the good news with others and not worry about getting along. Getting along means we are avoiding speaking the truth in love; we are avoiding using our gifts to build the kingdom.
We have the answer to the questions people are asking and it is to open ourselves up to embrace Christ. Allow the word of the prophets to enter our hearts and open us up to see a new vision of Christ. Put aside the image we have of him and allow the Holy Spirit to show us Jesus and allow Jesus to show us the Father.