January 31, 2016 (4th Sunday in OT)

January 31, 2016 (4th Sunday in OT)

 

One descriptive phrase that still seems to be growing in reference to just about anything is “It’s complicated.”  In particular, people seem to like to use that saying to describe a relationship status.

 

The response Jesus received in our Gospel passage was certainly complicated.  At first, His listeners were amazed and spoke highly of Him.  But they turned on Him quickly and even drove Him out of town with the intention of throwing Him off a cliff.  They were probably not too happy with Jesus reminding them of how the prophets Elijah and Elisha went out to the Gentiles (to the non-Israelites) because their own people were not open to their message, and with how Jesus was applying that to His own situation.  The Word of God always calls us to change, and so it always calls us to make a response.  (And even no response, then, is really a response.)  Instead of responding in faith, hope, and love, Jesus’ audience in the synagogue responded with anger and rebellion.

 

We too have a choice in how we respond to God’s Word.  Our response might differ depending on our age, what we are experiencing in life now, or what we have experienced in the past.  In any case, we are called to respond, not just once, but each day and throughout our lives, in the midst of all of the ups and downs.  None of us, of course, are perfect.  And perhaps we even may find it difficult to let God into our lives.  Our relationship status with God might seem “complicated.”  But as we see in the example of Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, and Jesus, God’s Word goes out even to skeptical minds and hardened hearts, not being forced on anyone, but inviting a response.  And the greatest response that we are called to make is that of love.

 

Many of us have heard it said of someone, “To know him is to love him.”  Yet, in our relationship with God it is deeper than that, and not so simple.  Still, there is a connection between knowing and loving.  In his teaching on love, St. Paul says that one day, “I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”  To truly say of God, “To know Him is to love Him,” we must first recognize that we are fully known by God (our Creator), and that to be known by God is to be loved by God.  It is then that we can respond to God’s love with love.  It is in and through this intimate relationship of love that God calls us to a new way of life and to share that life of love with others, for as St. Paul reminds us, it is only by loving that the Christian genuinely exists.  Of course, loving is rarely easy—it demands something of us—and in the face of a culture increasingly forgetful of God, it can actually be a daunting task, just as it was for Jeremiah and the other prophets. 

 

But ultimately it is that intimate relationship with God—that being known and being loved—that gives us the freedom, the courage, and the strength to witness to God in love.  When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, He told him, “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…They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you.”  And of course God the Father had an intimate relationship with Jesus the Son from His Conception, and it was doubtless that being completely known and loved by the Father allowed Jesus to fulfill his mission and ministry, despite constant confrontation.

 

And our God—the Father who fashioned each of us in the womb, the Son whose death and resurrection we share in baptism, the Holy Spirit who enlightens our minds and guides our hearts—will not leave us to go it alone.  We are given the Word of God present in the Scriptures and in the living Tradition of the Church.  We have the Sacraments, physical instruments of God’s grace.  And in particular, we have the Eucharist, Christ’s lasting gift of sacrificial love to us, which brings us to share in a special way the divine life and love of the Holy Trinity, and strengthens us for our journey of faith. 

 

God’s love challenges us but also changes us, and living that love can indeed be challenging but is also life-changing and world-changing.  Let us respond with faith and hope and love to God’s great love, a love full of power, a love that never fails, even when it comes in unexpected ways.