4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 3, 2019 (Thoman)
Jer 1:4-5, 17-19 I Cor 12:31-13:13 | Lk 4:21-30
I. The first reading at today’s Mass was also the first reading at my Mass of Ordination.
As one to be ordained to the priesthood, I saw myself as someone called and ordained to
speak God’s word. I saw myself as someone like the prophets – called to speak God’s
word in season and out of season, knowing it isn’t easy and that it can be challenging.
But I was ready and willing to challenged. I was not interested in
taking the easy road in life; I wanted to do all that I could to preach God’s word.
I also saw myself like Jeremiah and some of the other prophets: questioning and
a bit bewildered that I would be in the situation of being called to speak God’s
word. The reading at my Mass of Ordination included some of the verses missing
from our reading today – verses which speak of Jeremiah’s questioning. The missing
verses also include God’s reassurance that God would be with Jeremiah, a sentiment
repeated at the end of today’s reading, “for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
So, taking my cue from the prophets, I entered the priesthood ready and willing, knowing
there would be challenges but also trusting in God’s providential guidance and care.
And, as I say, I wanted to work hard and I wanted to embrace the challenges of life.
II. In the secular world, the common understanding about being a prophet is more
commonly understood as fortune telling. A prophet tells or predicts the future –
much like people making predictions at the beginning of a new year.
But that is not biblical prophecy. Prophets from the bible were primarily
focused on the present – not the future. They wanted to speak God’s word to the
present situation. They wanted to speak truth, regardless of whether it would
popular, comfortable or well accepted. And if it did have anything to do with the
future, it was because the truth they spoke became reality.
III. Imagine you are a prophet – in the line of Jeremiah and Jesus. What would you
say? You desire to speak God’s truth to a particular issue. Pick an issue.
A. Take, for example the issue of abuse in the Church. We have been learning about
this unfolding tragedy for at least seventeen years now. With each revelation of
something new, the burden has become heavier and more depressing. We have
been learning not only have thousands of people been abused, but also our Church
leaders did not handle the situations properly. Have we also been learning our
Church leaders were not listening to God’s word – or, with the best of intentions on
their part – they did not properly apply the truth of God’s word.
So, you wish to address this issue prophetically. What would you say? How
would you apply God’s word to the issue of abuse in the Church?
B. Or, here’s a controversial issue – the question of immigration. As you know, as a
nation we have been wrangling over this for a very long time – some would say even
since the founding of our country. Tempers flare and it seems we can see no clear
way ahead to address the question of immigration.
But, you are a prophet. How would you apply God’s word to this issue?
What are the values involved? And how would you prioritize them according to
C. Recently, our bishops have been working on addressing the issue of racism. Racism
is one of those national issues that has reappeared on the scene – and it’s been
contentious and caused polarization. The ugly face of prejudice and hatred rears its
What is God’s word as it is addressed to equality among human beings?
How would, as a prophet, speak about racism?
D. Violence is becoming ever more pervasive in our society. As you know, we have
gun violence in our schools, malls, neighborhoods and homes. It seems we are
becoming more and more tolerant of violence – even immune to it.
What is God’s word as it is addressed to violence? What would God say to
those who would choose to resolve their differences through violence?
E. And what about just general respect for one another - respect for children and
women and men? There are many ways in which we disrespect one another,
ranging from simple lack of courtesy and polite conversation to several sexual and
physical abuse. What does God’s word say about how we are to treat each other?
III. What is the overall virtue to be applied in any of these situations? It is love.
In our second reading we heard all about the virtue of love. The second reading
from Corinthians is popularly used at weddings, but Paul wasn’t thinking about
wedding readings or even marriage; he had a bigger view in mind and that was
the internal workings of the Christian community. Paul was addressing the
issue of harmony in the community.
How are we to relate to one another? Love is the overarching virtue – over
all of our gifts and all other virtues, put on love. As Paul says, this is the one
virtue that remains.
IV. So, this week think of yourself as a prophet. Whenever you encounter a
particular situation or think about some of these big issues, consider how God’s
word applies to that issue. As a prophet, what would you say?
Both Jeremiah and Jesus were to face challenges. They sought to speak the
truth of God’s word, regardless of whether or not it was popular or would be
Jesus was ultimately was put to the death for speaking the Father’s word, but
he always used the virtue of love. May it be so for us.
Fr. Dwayne Thoman