Sunday, 30 January 2022 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures we are called to reflect on our calling as Christians, to be the followers and disciples of Our Lord, to do what God has taught us to do in following His commandments and His own examples. As Christians, all of us share in the same mission that God has entrusted to us, to His Church from its very foundation and beginning. This is what we have been called to do, to show our genuine love both for God and for our fellow men, our brothers and sisters.

In our first reading today, taken from the beginning of the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the Lord and His calling to the prophet Jeremiah, as He called him to become His servant and mouthpiece, to become the one chosen by God before he even knew it, to speak of God’s will and truth before the people of God. At that time, the prophet Jeremiah lived during the last years of the southern kingdom of Judah, at the time when the remaining people of God were beset by troubles and the threat of the destruction of their kingdom were looming large at them.

All of that were caused by their own disobedience against God, their refusal to listen to Him and in hardening their hearts and closing them from His love and mercy. They would rather remain in the state of sin and living in darkness than to follow the Lord, their God. Yet, God still patiently reached out to them and sent them His prophets, including that of Jeremiah to His people reminding them of His love and urging them to repent and turn away from their sins. He never gave up on them and still cared for them, because we are truly precious and beloved to Him.

That is the exact same sentiment shown in our Gospel passage today when we heard of the moment when the Lord Jesus was in Nazareth, in His own hometown and how He was rejected by the people whom He had known from earlier in His life, from His childhood. At that time, the Lord returned to Nazareth after beginning His ministry and gathering some of His disciples, and He proclaimed the Word of God in the local synagogue, only for the people to doubt Him and slander Him just because they knew St. Joseph, His foster father and thought that it was impossible for a Man of such stature to gain such wisdom and power.

The Lord told all of them that it was because of this that in the past God had sent His servants like the prophet Elijah to minister to the people neighbouring the Israelites, who had more faith in the Lord than the people of Israel themselves. He used the example of the widow of Zarephath who welcomed Elijah during the years of the great famine and how she took care of him even though she herself and her son were themselves in great distress. God showed His providence and cared for them, and they showed us what it truly means to be those who believe in God. The same goes with the example of Naaman the Syrian as well, who humbled himself before the Lord and was healed by his faith, even though he initially had his reservations and doubts.

Through what we have heard from these examples we can clearly see that there are many opportunities for us to respond to God’s love, to all that God had given to us, His attention and care, His compassion and kindness, all that He had done to us even though we have often disobeyed Him, disregarded and even betrayed Him. So pure is God’s love for each one of us that even though He despises our sins, He did not despise us sinners, but wants us to be freed from the bonds of those sins and then be reconciled with Him.

That is why He has sent us His Son, Jesus Christ, the One rejected by His own townspeople and neighbours, to be our Saviour, to be the source of our renewed Hope and as the Light to lead us out from the darkness of sin. In Christ, we have seen the perfect manifestation of God’s ultimate and enduring love in the flesh, Love that never ends and Love that persists to the end of time. From the very beginning when He created us all out love, His love has endured, and through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, we have seen how God wants to share this love with us.

St. Paul reminds us in our second reading today, taken from the Epistle that he wrote to the Church and the faithful in Corinth of what love and true Christian love means. Love is patient, kind and without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant. St. Paul revealed to us that this is what true Christian love is all about, love that first and foremost God Himself has shown us unconditionally, as He patiently loved us from the beginning even though He had to constantly endure our betrayals and ignorance, and the pain of seeing so many of the sons and daughters of mankind falling into eternal damnation, eternally separated from Him.

St. Paul also mentioned that no matter whatever power, gifts, talents, abilities, blessings and all that we have received and are endowed with, but if we have no love in us, then all these are meaningless and useless. Without love, then whatever we do are only for ourselves and have no merit whatsoever. As Christians, this is not what we have been taught to do. Instead, as Christians, love must be our second nature, and not only just loving ourselves, but more importantly, to love God and our fellow brothers and sisters just as much if not more than we have loved ourselves.

That is essentially we have been called to do, to remember how fortunate we are to have been beloved by God despite our past mistakes and transgressions. God has patiently guided us through our journey of life all these while, and He has always reached out to us whenever we are in need. He has never abandoned us even though we have often abandoned and ignored Him. For all that love, often we respond to His love with disobedience and sins, with immorality and lack of faith.

That is why this Sunday, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded of the obligation for us all to love, as something that as Christians we have to do in our lives. Just as God Himself has shown us His pure and perfect love, thus we should also love Him in the same way, giving an unconditional love and one that is genuine from our hearts. Many of us loved God conditionally, loving Him and seeking Him only when we need Him, but the moment we have no need for Him, we easily and quickly forgot about Him.

Then, in the same way, we must also love our fellow brothers and sisters, by caring for everyone we encounter in life regardless who they are. Yes, certainly we will love some people more than others, especially those who are precious and known to us, those in our families and among our close circle of friends. However, we must still also love even those who are strangers to us, those whom we encounter daily, and this includes even those who hate us and persecute us.

Remember what the Lord told His disciples in another occasion in the Gospels? He said that we must love our enemies and forgive them, and we have to pray for them, just as He Himself has prayed for them. Not least, Our Lord has forgiven and prayed for those who persecuted Him and condemned Him to death right from the Cross upon which He was hung during the time of His Passion and death. That is the proof of God’s ever present love for us, and just how unconditional and beautiful His love for us is. And if God has loved us in such a manner, should we not then love Him in the same way too?

Let us all realise that we have been given many opportunities to express our love for God and for one another, and we have to practice that love in our lives, as genuine Christians that are filled with God’s love and grace. Let us all love the Lord with all of our hearts and show the same love to our brethren especially those who are most in need of them, during these difficult and challenging times when what some people need are just more care and attention, and some consolation for their sufferings and troubles. Let us all share God’s love with one another, following in the examples that Our Lord Himself has shown us. Amen.