Today we hear about the opposition that prophets encounter and we hear about love.
Our first reading — Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 — tells of the call of Jeremiah and of the Lord’s promise not to give Jeremiah ease and comfort in his vocation but to enable him to fulfill it despite all opposition. God planned this role for Jeremiah while he was still in the womb: from conception. In verses which the reading passes over, Jeremiah tries to refuse the call, but God doesn’t accept his excuse. Jeremiah will proclaim the Lord’s word to a people who don’t want to hear it, and he will be persecuted because of it, but he will be faithful to his call.
In the responsorial psalm — Ps 71:1-6, 15, 17 with a refrain based on v. 15 — we ask for protection such as God gave Jeremiah. Like him, we have our vocation from before our birth, and like him we proclaim God’s deeds.
The gospel — Luke 4:21-30 — repeats the last line of last Sunday’s pericope and tells of what happened after that. Jesus has said he has been anointed by God to proclaim a sort of jubilee year. The people like what he’s saying, but find it hard to believe tat Joseph’s son should be the one with that vocation. They want him to do what he has done in Capernaum. Luke hasn’t provided any specifics (see 4:14-15), but it is safe to infer that he had performed healings such as marked his subsequent ministry. There seem to be two possible meanings of the request that he do what was done in Capernaum. Possibly they want these things for their own sake. Miracles are ore important to them than the good news Jesus proclaims. Alternatively, they could be like the scribes and Pharisees elsewhere in the gospels who want Jesus to perform signs to show that he is approved by God. Either way, they don’t simply accept his message. The prophet is rejected, but, just as God promised Jeremiah, he is given enough protection to enable him to complete his work.
The familiar words we heard from First Corinthians in the second reading — 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 — invite us to think about love.
Most of us have heard this passage at weddings. But we should realize that it’s not just talking about the love of husband and wife. In fact, that is really incidental to what St. Paul is thinking about. Paul is thinking of love as the preventive of strife and divisions in the church of Corinth. The second readings of the past two weeks and today follow each other without a break in Paul’s letter. Two weeks ago we heard that there is a variety of ministries in the Church, but all come from the one Holy Spirit. Then last week Paul used the analogy of the body. Just as the body needs all its parts, and all parts need the rest of the body, so the Church needs its members and they all need one another, in all their varied ministries and roles. Today we are told that love matters more than any specific role or action, no matter how great the role or action may be. Love manifests itself in how we deal with the other members of the community. The love that is patient, kind, not jealous, pompous, inflated, rude, self-interested, quick-tempered, brooding over injuries, or rejoicing over wrongdoing, that rejoices with the truth, and bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things is the love that unifies the community. This is not passion, or being “in love.” This love is permanent, and it is needed not only in marriages and families, but also in parishes, dioceses, and the universal Church, and in the societies in which we live.
So we ask ourselves, “Are there ways in which we fall short of this patient and kind love for all? Do our dealings with others spring from love? Even when we need to try to correct them on some point, does the correction express the love that motivates it?”
May the Holy Spirit, giver of all gifts, guide our words and actions to witness to God’s word to his people, soften our hearts to make them more loving, and show us how to let love be the ground of all we do.