Sunday, 3 February 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the Lord speaking to us and reminding each and every one of us of what He has called us to be, to become His beloved children and as His followers, filled with His love. He has called us to be open to the love that He has shown us all, and which He has bestowed upon us. Unfortunately, many of us are often too preoccupied and distracted in life, to realise this love that God has placed in our midst, the great gift He has given to each and every one of us.

In all that we have heard today, from the readings of the Old Testament, New Testament and the Gospel passage, we heard of various expressions of God’s love, and how His servants have acted out of love for Him, and we are all called to emulate and show that same love that God has given to us, in our own lives. If we do not love each other as God has loved us, then we have not truly lived up to the fullness of our Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, St. Paul wrote about the variety of gifts and wonders that God had given to us, in the various miracles, powers and talents He blessed us with, and yet, St. Paul reminded the faithful that all of those things are meaningless and useless, unless there is love in us, at the centre of our every actions and words, attitudes and direction in life.

In the first reading today, we heard of the words of the prophet Jeremiah, one of the most important and prominent prophets of the Old Testament time. The prophet Jeremiah was called by God to be His servant, to follow Him and to perform the great tasks entrusted to him, that is the conversion and repentance of the people of the kingdom of Judah, who is falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin and disobedience against God.

The prophet Jeremiah had a difficult task, and he encountered numerous challenges throughout his ministry, if we read more about his story as recorded in the Book of Kings. He had to face the wickedness of the people of Judah and their kings, together with their unwillingness to repent and change their ways, despite repeated reminders from the prophet, and the signs and warnings he gave of the inevitable coming of the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem.

He also had to go against many false prophets and lying seers and influential priests and leaders, who gave false prophecies and ideas to the people and the king, and the prophet Jeremiah was therefore seen as a crazy, unstable and unreliable madman, and worse still, some even saw him as a traitor to the nation, for having spoken such prophecies of the upcoming downfall of the kingdom of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem and the suffering of the people.

And the prophet had to endure so many sufferings and pains, incarceration and prison, on top of the rejections and other forms of humiliations he had had to endure throughout his years of ministry. Any reasonable human beings would have given up their works and efforts in the face of such enormous opposition, challenges and difficulties. But why did Jeremiah not give up? He continued on regardless, and continued to be true to his mission to the very end.

That is because of his love for God, his understanding of God’s will, and how despite all the things that he had to suffer, but God had entrusted in him a very important task, which he had to do for the benefit of his fellow men, even if those people were stubborn and hard hearted, constantly refusing to believe in the word of God that he spoke of. He put his trust in God, that God will provide for him, and if he had not done what the Lord had commanded him to do, then many of his fellow men would have fallen deeper into sin and therefore into damnation.

In the Gospel today, we heard something that is very similar, of the moment when the Lord Jesus came among His own townspeople and neighbours in the village of Nazareth, where He proclaimed the truth about Himself and about the fulfilment of God’s salvation. The people went up against Him and many doubted Him, thinking of Him as a liar and upstart, using the argument that He was merely the Son of the village carpenter, St. Joseph, whom they had known for many years.

The Lord Jesus also encountered numerous other difficulties and challenges, throughout His earthly ministry. There were many who listened to Him and followed Him, but there were equally many if not more, who refused to believe in Him, doubted against Him just as what the people of Nazareth had done, and went against Him, particularly many among the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the priests of the Temple of God. In addition, the king Herod and his supporters, the Herodians and the Sadducees were also against the Lord.

They tested Him, made His journeys and teachings difficult, placing obstacles and barriers, challenges and persecutions, all for the sake of maintaining their own authority, their own prestige and status within the community of the people of God. They did not want to lose the privileges and the good things that they have gained for many years just because of the apparent challenge from that seemingly charismatic prophet, Jesus Christ, Whom they saw as a dangerous rival to their worldly schemes and ambitions.

We see in all of these, the lack of love which many of the people of God unfortunately experienced, that they did not have that love which they ought to have for God. In them, there is no place for God, for their hearts and minds have been filled up and corrupted by worldly desires, ambitions, ego, pride, and many other forms of distractions and temptations that have often prevented us from being able to love from our hearts. Instead of loving God, and loving our fellow men as we have been taught to do, we only care about our own desires and wants.

We may have all the talents, gifts, wonders and all other sorts of amazing things in our life, but if we are unable to love from our hearts, then everything that we have and everything we possess are meaningless and useless for us. Why is that so? That is because God has created us all to love, and to exist in love with Him and one another. And love is the essence of our existence. The moment we stop loving, we end up becoming selfish, egoistic, greedy and wicked, filled with all sorts of negativities that could have been avoided if only we allow ourselves to be filled with love.

What is love, brothers and sisters in Christ? Love is what the Lord Himself has shown us, not just by mere words but also through real actions. He showed us what love is all about, and taught us how we should also love through our words and actions in life. Many of us mistook love for desire and greed, and many also mistook love for pride and ego, or lust and promiscuity. All these are false forms of love that the devil has put in our midst in order to confuse us and to prevent us from finding our way to God’s salvation.

God has shown us what love is all about. True and genuine love is selfless and sacrificial in nature, filled with commitment and giving. He showed us what perfect love is, when He patiently ministered to us and cared for us, even with all of our rebelliousness and stubbornness, refusing to believe in Him and to love Him. We even ended up hating Him and being angry with Him, when we misunderstood His intentions, will and love for us. But God still loved us all nonetheless, even to the greatest of sinners.

It is this love that is reflected in His disciples and followers, including in prophet Jeremiah, in how he still carried out his obligations and calling as prophet despite all the nasty persecutions, troubles and sufferings that he had to face for so many years. All of these allowed him and multitudes of saints and martyrs to show the same love, first for God and then second, for their fellow men, even to those who have made them to suffer and persecuted them.

All of these are caused by them being inspired by none other than the examples of true love that the Lord Jesus has shown us, by His ultimate, loving sacrifice on the cross. He emptied Himself and embraced fully all the grievous and painful punishment that should have been ours to bear. His love for each and every one of us was so great, that He was able to endure all those wounds and pains inflicted on Him. His love for God, His Father and for each and every one of us, is the same love that we must have, every single moment of our lives.

Now then, brothers and sisters in Christ, how should we then emulate and show genuine love in our actions, words and dealings each and every days of our life? It is by learning to show love, selflessness and genuine compassion for those whom we encounter daily in our own lives, to not be selfish and be filled with desire and greed. Let us be generous in our giving and in our love, forgiving those who have caused us much pain and suffering. It is when we have this love in us, and God is at the centre of our lives, that we will have found our true peace in life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all pray that we will be given the courage and strength, to show love in all and everything that we say, do and act in our daily lives, that even when the world itself is against us, and even when we are tempted to give up and find another way, we will remain strong in our love and in our faith in God, and filled with this love, we will not be swayed by the falsehood of the devil, and be able to live our lives faithfully from now on. May the Lord continue to be with us and guide us in our path. Amen.

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