Brett Fawcett

WORD MADE FLESH

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 31, 2016
Jeremiah 1.4-5, 17-19 | Psalm 71 | 1 Corinthians 12.31-13.13 | Luke 4.21-30
January 25, 2016

Love isn't as popular as we want to think.

This may not ring true at first. After all, doesn't our culture celebrate love? The Beatles' All You Need is Love is one of the most popular songs in history; Romeo and Juliet is probably Shakespeare's most popular play; and more and more people are supporting same-sex unions on the grounds that true love should conquer all.

Indeed, today's Second Reading - "love is patient, love is kind" - is one of the most widely quoted passages of Scripture.

Love is patient; love is kind. - 1 Corinthians 13.4

'Love is patient; love is kind.'

1 Corinthians 13.4

But today's Gospel should make us stop and reflect that true love is not always a crowd pleaser. There, we see that Jesus' preaching was initially popular, and the crowds "were amazed at the gracious words that came out of his mouth."

Yet, when he confronts them with the fact that God is sent to the nations as well as to Israel - when he reminds them that the Old Testament prophets sometimes chose to heal Gentiles rather than Jews - their approval suddenly turns to anger, and the once-appreciative crowd tries to throw him off a cliff, when all he has done is remind them of how far God's love reaches.

Are we still like that today? Surely we are more loving and open to love today, aren't we? We love the idea of love, since each of us needs it so desperately. Yet we tend to hoard our own love like misers; we withhold it from the person in front of us in the grocery store line if we find them annoying.

It is worse even than this. Suppose a politician were to call on her nation to forgive the terrorists who had killed innocent civilians, or on the families of children slain by school shooters to forgive their kids' murderers? How popular would this be?

It would not be a surprise if their audience swiftly turned into a lynch mob. Yet Jesus would probably be the first to remind us that if we only love those who love us, we are no different than any criminal gang.

This is why Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 13, which sound pleasant and inoffensive, are really daring. If we have faith that can move mountains - really think about the implications of that - but do not have love, we have nothing.

GREATER MIRACLE

A rape victim forgiving her rapist is a greater miracle than any healing at Lourdes, but will probably attract fewer news outlets. Someone preaching that rapists should be forgiven can expect to be thrown off a cliff. But, like Paul says, love is greater than martyrdom.

Let all Christians know, therefore, that preaching true, Christ-like love will not be as popular as they might expect.

This is why today's First Reading from Jeremiah is such a comfort: By our Baptism and Confirmation, God has made each of us a fortified city. Therefore, go forth and love, "for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord."