Fourth Sunday of the Year

In the days of Josiah, the word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying,
'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
before you came to birth I consecrated you;
I have appointed you as prophet to the nations'
'So now brace yourself for action.
Stand up and tell them
all I command you.
Do not be dismayed at their presence,
or in their presence I will make you dismayed.
I, for my part, today will make you
into a fortified city,
a pillar of iron,
and a wall of bronze
to confront all this land:
the kings of Judah, its princes,
its priests and the country people.
They will fight against you
but shall not overcome you,
for I am with you to deliver you

it is Yahweh who speaks.'
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:4-13

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people's sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.
Alleluia, alleluia!
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
Gospel: Luke 4: 21-30

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue, 'This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen'. And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips
They said, 'This is Joseph's son, surely?' But he replied, 'No doubt you will quote me the saying, "Physician, heal yourself" and tell me, "We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside"'. And he went on, 'I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.
'There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah's day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha's time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.'
When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.
The loneliness of the prophetic voice
Jeremiah was chosen from all eternity to be God’s chosen one for his time and place to preach to his people. There is a tense and dramatic relationship between Jeremiah and God and that of his mission to his people.
God likewise chooses the weak to confound the strong in every time and place (but he also makes them strong in the midst of their own weakness). God’s chosen ones – his bishops and priests and deacons today– are among the ordinary men of every time and age and culture, chosen by God himself in His wisdom to preach repentance to all who will listen and even paradoxically and more importantly to those, who maybe in greater numbers, refuse to. This pastoral failure is often taken personally and to heart by the prophet who may feel inadequate to continue after much disappointment. He questions his usefulness for the mission and God’s wisdom in choosing him.  Is it that he is to blame – is it omission on his part, is it in fact his fault alone? The personal and pastoral sensitivity on the part of the prophetic voice is part and parcel of a lonely road that he has to travel, where he is isolated, insulted, mocked and ridiculed by his peers who have shunned him from the marketplace, from polite and acceptable society.
Lonely and misunderstood, Jeremiah is at a loss at what to do or what to say, yet the fire that burns within him, reminds him of God’s love for him and consumes him (see Book of Jeremiah). His interior voice of conscience and the inner fire of the Spirit-filled relationship with God, like St Paul, urges him on amidst so much controversy and hardship. His 'lonely passion' pre-figures that of Jesus, described by Simeon as ‘the sign of contradiction’ in yesterday’s Gospel of the Presentation of the Lord to be set ‘for the rising and falling of many in Israel’, to a people whose hardness of heart later astonishes even Jesus Himself. Jesus is rejected by his own at Nazareth, though, as at Cana in the Gospel two weeks ago ‘his hour had not yet come’. Jesus refers to Jeremiah and the other prophets at the gates of Jerusalem and weeps over their common and inescapable fate. In his time, Jeremiah will not be listened to and will in fact die in exile. He was faithful among an unfaithful and heedless people. His mission was a failure, but he was pleasing to God, who no doubt rewarded him for his fidelity amid much seeming meaninglessness and adversity.
This is the clarion call to all of us to prophecy, to standing up for what is right when it is not the ‘popular thing to do’. In fact it is the call of all the baptised, anointed, consecrated, set apart as part of God’s holy people. Some do answer the call even to the point of martyrdom.
 How am I called to be prophetic? I am called to say what is right and just even if it means personal humiliation and embarrassment to myself, if it costs me popularity and friendship. What needs to be said and how it is to be said? This is very difficult when it comes to one’s own family, when siblings part ways over lifestyle and lack of sacramental practice; where there is some moral problem that needs to be honestly and urgently addressed by a parent to a grown up son or daughter, or between one sibling to another, out of genuine (loving) concern such as marital infidelity, cohabitation, long term addiction of some kind.
The million dollar question is: when something needs to be said, who is going to say it? T
That requires tact and wisdom and discernment.  The opposite effect can happen to what one intends– instead of recognising the offer of help, the person walks away, and there is a distance if not a breach in the relationship. Yet we are called to bring our brother back. It is in fact true 'love' that we hear in Corinthians today, as 'love delights in the truth'. While there is a distinct possibility of failure, what do we truly accomplish by our guilty silence?
We must render account God for our deeds, as well as ‘what we fail to do’. we are judged in the measure that we have loved, and love demands self-sacrifice.

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