Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C (3)

By: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
Homily for Sunday January 30 2022
A story is told of a priest who was newly ordained and went to his village to celebrate his First Mass and to be welcomed officially in his village. During the reception the people were very happy that they now have a new priest who is one of them and who has the ears of God close to him. They enumerated their problems to him and told him their major difficulty is following all the Ten Commandments of God. Thereafter, they made a special request asking him in his position as priest, and as someone close to God to cut down the number of the commandments for them, so they can have nine commandments. He made it clear to them that it was not in his power to do so since these divine laws existed long before he was born. The people became angry with his response and since then, whenever he came home, he receives a cold welcome. Like Jesus, this newly ordained priest refused the temptation of cheap popularity by telling the people what they wanted to hear or by making any empty promise to them. He was bold and brutally frank with his people.
Many centuries ago, the Prophet Jeremiah was called to take up a hard task of working with his people and he suffered rejection. God called Jeremiah for a difficult work and instructed the shy Jeremiah to speak boldly to his people. God said to him,
I appointed you a prophet to the nations. But you, gird up your loins; arise and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.
Jeremiah had always preferred to live a very quiet life and did not want any task that will expose him to public scrutiny. Contrary to his wish and expectation, the assignment God gave to him exposed him to public ridicule and insults. His job was to root out evil, to destroy all demonic practices and pull down evil and wicked men from their thrones. Earlier on, God had done so much to change the people of Israel, but at a certain point, there was no remedy other than uprooting the existing structures of evil and building a new people with a new covenant. God established this new covenant through Jeremiah and other prophets in preparation for the coming of Jesus.
Like Jeremiah, Jesus suffered rejection by his own people because he spoke the truth to them. They said to him, we heard you have been performing miracles in Capernaum and so we want you to do those miracles here. Jesus did not grant their request because of their lack of faith and because they were giving him a command and not a humble demand for miracles. While foreigners respected him and recognised him as the Messiah and Son of God, his own people simply referred to him as the ‘Son of Joseph the Carpenter’. His people became angry with him and attempted to kill him, but he escaped death narrowly by the grace of God.
This experience of Jesus with his people tells us that you cannot always meet the expectations of family, friends and relations. When I visit my village I hear my some of my friends saying to me, “Now you are a big man and so we expect you to buy a big land and build a big house instead of squatting with your parents. I am aware that if I do exactly what they say, they would soon start complaining and saying, “Now, he has forgotten about his priestly calling and he is into acquiring lands and buying houses. Unless we have a mind of our own, we would easily become miserable in an effort to please everyone.
Jeremiah and Jesus experienced persecution and rejection and yet they did not give up in the work that God had entrusted to them. Their work in the ministry was a labour of love for their people. They were determined to change their people for the better, and what they got was hatred in return. In fact, Jesus said, greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends. There are people we have tried to help in the name of love that have turned their back on us and rejected or disowned us out rightly. When we find ourselves in this kind of situation, we are tempted never to love or to be concerned about anybody else.
There are people who have refused to join any association or even socialise with others because of the injuries that they have suffered in past relationships. There are those who have developed hatred for a group of people or even ethnic group or race because of some bitter experience they have had in the hands of one person who belongs to that group, ethnic group or race.
If you must realise your dream to be a good person, you cannot stop taking the risk of loving people even when your kindness is taken for granted. According to the Apostle Paul, love endures whatever comes. In their fight against evil, Jeremiah and Jesus were able to overcome the obstacles and persecutions until the end. They spoke hard truth to their people and were not ‘people pleasers.’ The life and work of Jeremiah and Jesus says something to preachers who say only what people want to hear and not the hard truth of the Gospel. No wonder St. Paul predicted, ‘The time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires’ (2 Tim 4:3).
4th Sunday of the Year C, Jeremiah 1:4-4, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:21-30

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