Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (29 & 30/1/22)

posted 31 Jan 2022, 01:15 by Parish Office

It’s sometimes said, “The grass is always greener on the other side”. We don’t always appreciate what we’ve got (until it’s gone), and sometimes, familiarity breeds contempt. All reasons why “no prophet is ever accepted in his own country”.

The people of Nazara has polished this to the nth degree. They had seen Christ grow up from when He was small. They had heard about what He had done in Capernaum, and now they hoped He might put Nazara on the map as well. But He refuses. So they lose all respect for Him and try to do away with Him. There are a few things going on here. One is the deadly sin of anger taking people to places they normally wouldn’t go – I assume trying to push people over the cliff wasn’t the way they usually treated visitors. Another is putting their own personal interests first, and at the same time losing their respect for Him: how dare He refuse to do what we say! Who does He think He is, anyway? We know what He’s all about! Do you now? Perhaps a certain amount of familiarity breeds contempt.

Christ was not going to be controlled by the people around Him, conforming Himself to their expectations, especially when they were wrong. He was not bound by His time and era, and the long-established customs, the traditions that made the word of God null and void. And we are called to follow His example.

The first reading is about the calling of the prophet Jeremiah. He is not called by God to just maintain the status quo. His job is to confront, “the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests and the country people”. Could you imagine God telling you that it’s now your job to leave no one out when you call people to conversion, and that includes those at the top. You need to correct Queen Elizabeth, give a good telling off to Prince Charles, gather the clergy together and tell them they’re not doing their job, and finally go round the country estates and tell the landed gentry that it’s time they started taking a bit more notice of God. Off you go! Jeremiah didn’t have an easy life. Would you be encouraged by the words:

“They will fight against you

but shall not overcome you,

for I am with you to deliver you –

it is the Lord who speaks”.

Thankfully, our lives as Christians don’t involve quite so direct a conflict with the very seat of power, but our faith can cause us to clash with the world around us. And we are supposed to be calling people to follow God, each in our own way. We don’t need to be going round handing out condemnation, but exactly how we go about our mission is the tricky part. In the second reading, St Paul says that if we speak without love, we are simply, “a gong booming or a cymbal clashing”. Our witness to Christ has to be done out of love, not out of a desire to put everyone down. St Therese of Lisieux famously said that it is love that animates the Church, and without it, everything ceases. She wrote:

“I understood it was Love alone that made the Church’s members act, that if Love ever became extinct, apostles would not preach the Gospel and martyrs would not shed their blood. I understood that LOVE COMPRISED ALL VOCATIONS, THAT LOVE WAS EVERYTHING, THAT IT EMBRACED ALL TIMES AND PLACES…IN A WORD, THAT IT WAS ETERNAL!”

One of the dangers we can find is that we become so used to the Gospels, so used to the Mass, that we no longer appreciate them as fully as we used to – it just all becomes normal to us. We forget the difference our faith makes and we begin to slowly grow tepid. We need something, or Someone, to rekindle it. Sometimes, going on a retreat can be a help, stepping back from the busyness of life. Or maybe getting involved in something new in the parish. I’m hoping that our Synod meetings might get ideas flowing, get people to re-appreciate their faith, feel more involved in the parish and in the Church in general. Routine can be good, but sometimes it’s good to have a fresh look at things and try something new. The parish and the Church need you to bring your eyes and your ears together – what can we do differently and better than we are at the moment? How do we carry forward the mission of the Church? Where is the Holy Spirit leading us? The people of Nazara didn’t like being told things were not going to go according to what they wanted. We can be different to them, treating Christ, not with contempt, but as our God. And when we put Him in the centre, things might just get exciting.