Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (30 Jan. 2022)

All three readings in today’s liturgy are basically about Faith and Love. The beautiful reading from Jeremiah tells us we were called, chosen, precious, cherished and consecrated to be prophets who will be God’s messengers of God’s love to all peoples. God also promises to be with us each step of the way. Psalm 70 reminds us that God is our hope and help from the womb throughout the ages.

The love song of St. Paul delights in the truth. Love is always ready to excuse, to trust and to endure whatever comes. Love can only be seen through our actions. We are loved lavishly by God who loves us unconditionally and universally. All that is required of us is that we respond generously by allowing God’s love to pass through us to all we come in contact with daily. It sounds very easy on paper but it results in happiness if we try, and joy which follows.

The Gospel shows us Jesus, having given his inaugural speech to his listeners in the synagogue, telling them that this text is being fulfilled even as they are listening. His speech astonished them and won their approval at first, but since he didn’t work miracles in his own town of Nazareth because of their lack of faith, they queried why Capernaum and not here in his own town of Nazareth? Having spelt out his mission for them earlier, they really didn’t want to hear his answer. Jesus tells them that a prophet is not accepted in his own country.

Jesus then moves on to tell two short stories about pagans. Widows had a very hard and difficult life in the first century. They had to be sixty years or over, have no children, lead an exemplary lifestyle, have a good reputation and to be devoted to good works. Only then could they receive food and clothing. The nameless woman had a son, famine was raging in Sidon at that time and she was about to bake a small meal when Elijah arrived and asked her to bake him a scone. She explained that she had only a little oil and meal left, yet she did not refuse him and gave him what she had. She was rewarded by having enough food to last her through the famine times. Her great faith was abundantly rewarded.

The second story was about another pagan called Naaman (meaning God is Love) who was a Leper. He was a commander of the army of the King of Syria. He eventually accepted his diseased condition and bathed seven times in the Jordan river and believed. He was cleansed of his leprosy.

Faith, hope and love are the three things that last, and the greatest of these is love” says St. Paul (1Cor.13:13).

A few questions may help, if you wish.
1. How am I challenged, changed, enriched by what I have read? Find what draws me and spend a little time allowing it to draw my heart.
2. What one thing can I do now to embody whatever has challenged me as I read?
3. When you forgive yourself, the inner wounds begin to heal. How forgiving are you?

Let all you do be done in love. (1 Cor. 16:14)

Dympna Travers, OP

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