4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 31st, 2016

The First Reading of today tells us that Jeremiah’s service to God begins with his receiving the word of God. Jeremiah hears God announce that he was chosen to be a prophet even before he was formed in his mother’s womb. Here we have the dialogue between Yahweh and Jeremiah, which is a perfect example of Divine Love. Some of the Words that the Heavenly Father spoke are very touching. God tells the prophet of his personal choice from eternity. He says that even before he was born, God has consecrated him indicating his personal choice. Here God takes the initiative and calls Jeremiah to be the prophet. God is omniscient and he does everything with a purpose and the mission is very clear. Now the Prophet is called by God to stand firm for him and be his mouth piece. He is now the spokesperson of God to proclaim his message. He has to tell all what God has commanded him to do. When Jeremiah is scared at this command, God is present to support him and tells him not to be afraid because he will always be close to him. He gives him a sign saying that he will like a fortified city, like an iron pillar and strong as a bronze wall. No political or earthly power can overcome him as God himself is his protector. Jeremiah cannot be discouraged as God will protect him. He has the important message to be given to the nations.

Today’s Second Reading taken from the first Letter to the Corinthians. Paul speaks about the importance of the gifts of the Spirit which each one has received and says that love is the most important gift of all. Love indeed is a gift. Loving is an art which has to be received and nurtured. Love is defined as Eros or passionate love, philia or intimate love and Agape or unconditional divine love. Agape is the love that God has for every single person and the kind of love which should be the characteristic of the true follower of Christ in his/her relationship with people everywhere. Paul tells us that without agape none of other gifts of the Spirit have any value. Everything becomes empty. He then describes the characteristics of this true love: It is kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, not rude, not self-willed, not irritable, and not resentful. It is does not rejoice in wrongdoing but in truth, integrity and wholeness. In spite of all obstacles, it perseveres. It affirms the dignity of every single person, including their enemies. A life of love is more than a charism. It is a constant selfless caring for others whether one feels loving or not. It is the virtue of a true Christian and manifests itself in every circumstance. Paul says: “Love never fails.”

The Gospel of today follows what we were reading last Sunday: Jesus was in Nazareth, his hometown, and he preached in the synagogue. Jesus, at the beginning of his public life, gave to the people, what today we would call his ‘mission statement’, using words of the prophet Isaiah. When Jesus proclaimed that the text from Isaiah he had read has been fulfilled in their hearing, he was in fact applying it to himself. The Messiah they have been waiting for was now present to them here in the person of Jesus and the words of the prophet Isaiah were fulfilled in him. His ministry was going to fulfill what the prophets had promised for centuries. His Kingdom has begun to be realised in his works of healing, of reconciliation and liberation from evil powers. What the Lord was saying truly touched his listeners, so much so that they were very surprised at the discourse given by someone
they had once known and who, now, appeared to them as another man, a man unlike any other, a man who surpassed all others, for, in fact, he was at once God and man: “They wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.”