Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
In this reflection, the Scripture readings for The Fourth Sunday In Ordinary Time:
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:21-30
Recently in the Gospel of Luke, we saw Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River by His cousin, John the Baptist. In a beautiful moment showing the unity of the Trinity, the Father spoke of the Beloved Son, while the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, all acting together to begin Jesus’ ministry.
In the Old Testament, when the Holy Spirit descended upon a person, this often established them as a Prophet. The role of a prophet was to be the mouthpiece of God, that is, to speak the words of God. It certainly was not an easy role. Between the resistance of ordinary people and the manipulation of false prophets, the lives of many true prophets ended by exile or murder.
Jesus, like the prophets of old, immediately went on a mission when the Holy Spirit descended on Him. He soon came to His hometown of Nazareth and proclaimed the word of God in the synagogue, telling them that the prophecy of the Messiah was being fulfilled in their midst. However, in spite of their initial excitement, He also gave them a warning from their own history. Citing examples from Elijah and Elisha, Jesus reminded the people of Nazareth that Israel frequently rejected the prophets in the past. These were challenging words that should have brought the people to repentance.
Tragically, the Good News that Jesus proclaimed often fell on deaf ears or even made people violently resistant. His preaching was met with joy and conversion, but also by sneers, slander, and hatred. In this Gospel, specifically, the people are hateful because they knew Jesus growing up and dislike that he is now calling them to conversion. We can imagine their secret thoughts: “Who does he think he is to come back here and tell us our faults? We would rather murder him than hear his challenging words.”
We, too, may be rejected if we are going to follow in His footsteps, accepting the role of a Prophet which was given to us at Baptism. Our attempts to speak the Good News (with its call of repentance) may be rejected by others, including our own family, friends, or co-workers. Certainly, we will do better if we become holier and more approachable ourselves. But even at our best, some people, or even many people, will refuse to listen.
However, we will find the strength to continue because there is not only rejection. One of the greatest joys, I believe, of being a prophet of the Lord and his mouthpiece is to see the ways He accomplishes his plan through us. There is a deep thanksgiving that goes beyond doubt, frustration, or exhaustion when I think of the times Jesus has used me to draw someone to him. Jesus, too, took comfort in his disciples and had joy in his heart because of their faith, especially when it seemed like everyone was against him. As you continue to speak the word of God, pray simply for those who reject you, and find encouragement in those who share your faith.
Father Williams is the Associate Pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Springfield and also St. Joseph the Worker in Ozark.