Fr. Charles Irvin
4th Sun [C] 2013
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 13:4-13; Luke 4:21-30
God’s love never fails. The God who is love is behind all of His creation. Better said, God’s love is present in all of creation. God is a whole lot nearer to us than we think, or can possibly imagine. If there is any failure in love it is ours, ours when we try to control others but fail, ours when we think we know what God should do, ours when we think we could do a better job managing our world than God. It’s our lust to control life and others that causes all of the trouble and causes us to blame God for not meeting our expectations.
Today’s gospel account allows us to see ourselves trying to manipulate God, trying to set terms on what God should or should not do. At first the folks in the synagogue of Jesus’ home town thought highly of Him. He was speaking words that evidently appealed to them and so they thought highly of Him.
Things rapidly and dramatically changed when Jesus reminded them that God’s love and God’s power comes to gentiles, not just Jews. They were not so elite, not so chosen, and not so exclusively special. Their prideful expectations were challenged and this enraged them, so much so that they wanted to throw Him headlong over a cliff. Who does He think He is, they thought? Isn’t he just the son of Joseph and Mary? He was out of their control and He frustrated their expectations and so they turned on Him in anger.
Jeremiah lived in troubled times and suffered greatly for proclaiming God’s word. He has been called The Weeping Prophet. In his troubles Jeremiah felt he was inferior and a failure. In the depth of his woes God spoke to Jeremiah saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. But do you gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land: against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people. They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. Failure, Jeremiah? You are not a failure. I love you and my love for you will not being failure to you.
God’s love never fails. The God who is love is behind all of His creation. Better said, God’s love is present in all of His creation. Because God made us in His image and likeness He is particularly present within us from the first moment of our existence. Today’s psalm response taken from Psalm 71 sings:
For you are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth;from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
In both the Old Testament and the New we find many instances in which God is at work in the wombs of mothers, the most notable being when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth and John the Baptism leapt in his mother’s womb. Each one of you was in the mind of God before you were born. Each one of you was created by the God who is Love in order that He might love you and be loved by you in return. Each one of you is unique. You have your own DNA code, your own fingerprint, and your own personhood. If God is not loved by you He will never be loved by anyone else who can love Him just as you can. Think about that. And think about how that makes you so special in the eyes and in the heart of God. If we are worthy of such love from God then we are worthy of each other’s love. No one should be considered unworthy of our love.
We all belong to God; He is our Father, the Father who is Love itself. If God is our Father then we are all sisters and brothers; we are all bonded together as members of His family. That reality, that will of God, has implications in terms of how we treat each other. We are called to care. We are called to do what is good for each other, to seek what is decent and just and right for others. All of our Church’s teachings on social justice are based on that fundamental truth. We have, as we heard St. Paul declare, faith, hope, and love but the greatest of these is love. And if we love as God loves, then love never fails.
What, then, are the attitudes we have that block our love for one another? Without consideration of an order of importance we can name a few of them here.
Prejudice, the pre-judging of others based on their race or ethnicity is certainly one of them. We as a nation are making progress in suppressing those vices but we’re only making progress. A great deal more must be done to eliminate our prejudices.
Substituting lust for love plays a major part in blocking genuine love in our hearts. There are huge industries making billions of dollars in marketing lust. Granted that the movie and television industries present us with some stories of genuine and even heroic love nevertheless pornography abounds in which men and women are presented as objects, mere things that we find useful to gratify our urges and drives.
Selfishness coupled with a desire for power and control over others needs to be mentioned here. True love is other-centered, not self-centered. It seeks not to dominate but rather to free us to be who we really are.
One of the most powerful tools the Devil uses to corrupt our souls is the emotion of fear. Fear causes us to be self-centered like no other emotion. Notice how many times Jesus called upon His disciples to “fear not.” “Fear not,” He repeatedly stated, “fear not for I am with you.” Fear, He knew, was the opposite of faith. Fear is likewise the opposite of hope and love. Think of how many decisions we have made that were based on fear. Consider, too, how many fear-based decisions we later came to regret. Fear is at the base of abortion. Fear is at the base of discrimination. Fear is at the base of how we regard immigrants and how we regard those who are poor.
Love, we should see, is not simply a nice, warm feeling. Love is not simply a sentiment. Love is found in our choices, in our decisions as to how we relate to others. Love isn’t something we get; it is rather something that comes to us when we love with the self-giving love of God. It is powerful, it is disarming, it cannot be conquered. Love never fails.
The second reading for this Mass was taken from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. They were a very sophisticated people living a seaport town that was a center of commerce. People from all around the Mediterranean lived and worked there. In writing to the Christian community there St. Paul declared to them and today to us:
Brothers and sisters: Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.