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4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; 1Cor 12:31-13: 13; Lk 4:21-30

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..." - Jeremiah
"Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror….but then I shall know as fully as I am known…In short, there are three things that last…and the greatest of these is love." - 1Corinthians
"I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country…" - Luke

In the first reading this Sunday we meet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was called to be prophet in the midst of intense political unrest. Off all the inspired prophets few reached Jeremiah’s stature in his recognition of Yahweh’s great love. This week we hear, amongst other things, that God knows and loves the human person from before birth. God knows and loves from the first moment of a person’s existence.

In 1 Corinthians we find Paul reveals that only by loving does the Christian exist authentically. Paul tries to personify love rather than struggle to define it. Eventually he points to the quality of ‘knowing’ we have of God. Now we know almost in a childish way, but one day we will ‘really know’. One day we’ll ‘know’ as Moses did; “face to face”.

Luke this week offers us the possibility that the present ‘today’- now- is the time of fulfilment. God has been faithful to the promise and the towns people are amazed that one whom they have known all along is the bearer of such news: “ Is this not Joseph’s son?”. They were outraged. The theme of the rejected prophet is clear and the people are made aware that God’s offer is not restricted to them, that God’s love and grace is unconditional. It is for all.

The Franciscan theologian, Richard Rohr has much to say of value when we think about some of the themes presented this week. In many of his lectures and writings, Rohr points to the great mystery of God’s love and to the paradox which is that often we have nothing to say, that is really worth hearing, until we have been rejected and until we have felt unseen. He points to the paradox that we often do not wake up to how thoroughly we are known and loved by that Divine Mystery we call God, until we feel thoroughly unseen, unknown and unloved in our own everyday lives. Rohr often suggests too that the great prophets were rejected people before they had something to say, that it is the ‘rejected one’ who is often the gift giver.

This observation draws us to reflect on power and powerlessness and leads us to see that it is often the powerless who are able to reveal God’s love powerfully to us. We see, too, that the truth does not always come from where we expect to find it.

By J. Engelbert

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