Homily on the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives (Lk 4:18)
“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” (Jer1:5). These were the words in our First Reading from the Book of Prophet Jeremiah. The prophet described his call by the Lord. This calling also comes with the warning that the prophet would share in the rejection and persecution from those opposed to God’s holy will: “But 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” (Jer1:17).
Jeremiah prefigured Jesus in the Gospel Proclamation for this Sunday: The passage taken from the Gospel of Luke is a continuation of last Sunday. Jesus entered the synagogue and opened the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19). Rolling up the scroll, the Lord handed it back to the attendant and said, “all day this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). Jesus therefore verified that He is the Messiah/Christ or the Anointed One of God. Jesus was anointed to bring the ministry of prophet to fulfillment. Just as Jeremiah, in carrying out his prophetic role, was faced with rejection, the Gospel today gave us a preview of the rejection and persecution that Jesus would confront starting with their conviction that nothing good would come from the person who was thought to be the son of the carpenter: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” (Lk 4:22). Then “they rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong” (Lk 4:29). This rejection and persecution led him to the cross, witnessing to the almighty Father’s love.
By virtue of our Baptism, we are members of the One Body of Christ and share in Christ’s ministry as prophet. This is stated so clear in the anointing of infants right after Baptism: “Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has freed you from sin, and given you new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and joined you to his people. He now anoints you with the Chrism of salvation, so that you may remain members of Christ, Priest, Prophet, and King, unto eternal life.” The question is what does it mean to be a prophet? Looking at Jeremiah and above all, Jesus, we can simply say three things: First, the prophet needs to hear God’s Word–the kind of hearing that leads to ponder the Word in our hearts. Second, the prophet needs to communicate what God intends, just as God said to Jeremiah, “tell them all that I commanded you.” Third, a prophet is willing to lay down his life to witness to the truth. Jesus fulfilled the line of the prophet with his suffering death on the cross! Baptism then conferred on us such a dignity as well as responsibilities. A share in Christ’s prophetic role requires that we join Christ in the mystery of the cross in witnessing to God’s gracious love to the human family.
To live with great dignify and to carry out the awesome responsibilities, we are called to have love as St. Paul in the Second Reading today reminds us: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1Cor 13:1-4). We need to experience the loving God who calls us to be a prophet in the water of baptism and respond to God with our loving hearts.
A suggestion to young parents with children today to remember and live God’s Word this Sunday: Go home and kiss the crown of the head of your children and consciously smell the place that was anointed by the Sacred Chrism on the day of their baptism! May this remind you that your children are called to be prophets and ask yourself how have you assisted your sons/daughters to grow into this prophetic vocation in Christ?