Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

Parish Priest

 

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

This week the Church gives us readings that will open our eyes to our need for love of our enemies and the realization that we are often the enemy of God.

 

The readings are: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19, Psalm 71, 1 Corinthians 12: 31-13: 13, and Luke 4: 21-30.

 

Jeremiah is called to be a prophet to the nations. God promises that even though Jeremiah will say some unpleasant things, God will not abandon him. The people will fight against Jeremiah but not prevail because God will remain with him. It didn’t always seem to Jeremiah that God was with him. As he called the people back to faithfulness, they became more and more belligerent and wanted to kill him. The link here is with Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth. He said some things that got the people riled up to the point of wanting to kill him, just like Jeremiah. The people were the enemy of God even though they thought they were God’s chosen.

 

Jesus stood up and read from the Prophet Isaiah. Jesus read “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

 

For a few minutes the congregation applauded their hometown boy. But then, moments later, they turn on him when he said these words were being fulfilled “today” in their hearing. They thought they were special and had a relationship with God that no others had. Wrong. As Jesus reminds them that the great prophets Elijah and Elisha ministered to Gentiles, people they hated. The widow of Zarephath received food from Elijah and Elisha healed the leper Naaman from Syria. So, God’s mercy was not limited to the Chosen People, they were told by Jesus. He reminded them that their calling was to spread the love of God to all people and no one was excluded or an enemy in the eyes of God. And they were to do it “today!”

 

They rebelled. The thing is they have fashioned their own god. And that god does not show mercy. They don’t realize that they themselves are “enemies’ of God in so far as they violate the command to love and forgive.

 

And we too can be enemies of God in spite of the fact that we think we are not. But the great thing is God loves us anyway, as we are, steeped in our own prejudices, hatreds, and selfishness. And when we realize the mercy that we have received from our loving God, the easier it will be for us to use our gifts to love even our perceived enemies. Love never fails, as St. Paul says. And he should know since he was willing at one time to murder in the name of his god. Like Paul, let’s get over making God in our own often-selfish likeness and rather realize we are made in the image and likeness of God, God whose name is Mercy! As we have received mercy, let us be merciful to others.

 

As we continue to hate others, as we continue to separate ourselves from the poor and needy, the prisoner and the sick and dying, yes, and even our own relatives, we hinder the coming of the Year of Mercy, a year acceptable to God.

 

Pope Francis said: “Mercy is the divine attitude that embraces, it is God’s self-giving that welcomes, that leans down to forgive.” And no one is excluded from that circle of mercy.