Homily: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Mary, Mother of our Redeemer Chapel
Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary
Jer. 1:4-5, 17-19; Ps. 71:1-6, 15-17
1 Cor. 12:31-13:13; Lk 4:21-30

Jesus shows us today that being a prophet—especially in the places where we call “home”—is no easy task.

The expectations are high and the margin of error is very slim. People expect an awful lot out of prophets. Heal us, teach us, lead us, guide us, let us know what exactly God expects from us!

But don’t you dare make s mad in the process—because if you do—that’s the end of the Prophet Jeremiah…or the Prophet Eric…or the Prophet Rosy…or the Prophet Jesus.

You have to feel bad for Jeremiah. There he was, the son of a priest, minding his own business and all of a sudden here God comes with a big pronouncement, classic God style:

Before you were born, Jeremiah, I called you to be a prophet to the nations. Speaking of that, whatever I tell you to speak to the nations is not likely going to go very well, but don’t worry! I’ve got your back. Gird your loins, Jeremiah and let’s get this show on the road.

Several hundred years later, along comes Jesus—the kid from Nazareth, baptized by his weird cousin John, gone off into the wilderness to “find himself”, and come back to his home town, to his own people, to the people who knew him, not as the Beloved Son of God, but as Jesus, the kid next door, the guy with the coolest sandals, the guy whose mother thinks he’s absolutely perfect.

And in classic God style, Jesus makes a big pronouncement:

When there were all kinds of widows and lepers in Israel, God did not appear to any of them, not a single one. Instead, God appeared to a couple of foreigners, a couple of people who look and act and think and pray and love differently than you do.

And they rose up—his own friends and neighbors—and tried to push him off a cliff.

To be a prophet is to wear etched into your heart God’s inclusive love— a love which is kind, a love which does not boast, a love which rejoices in the truth, a love which bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things—and a love which we do not usually embody very well.

And that, people of God, is a dangerous, dangerous task.

The people of Jesus’ synagogue were not rebuked for not loving. They were rebuked for not showing true, godly love, which is profoundly expansive and always inclusive. These people were good, faithful Jews who did their very best to keep the 613 commandments, many of which were about showing love to their neighbors and friends.

But God-in-Jesus asks us to show a new kind of love, a love which does not only follow the law, but goes above and beyond the law. God asks us to love the people and places and things that are foreign and frightening to us precisely because those are the things which God most profoundly loves.

God’s most profound love extends to all of the people and places where our feeble, childish love can’t always manage to go: to Republicans…and Democrats. Muslims, atheists, Catholics. Syrian refugees, Wall Street, and yes, even, ISIS.

In a few moments—after we have prayed together and confessed our sins together—we will gather together around that altar and meet Jesus face to face in the Eucharist.

And when he, yet again, makes his big God like pronouncement, how will you respond?

Will you rise up and try to throw him off a cliff? Or will you accept your calling—given to you at baptism—and truly become a “prophet to the nations”?

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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