In the first reading, we read of Jeremiah recalling what God told him. God knew him before he was born. This verse is popular in the pro-life movement. God knows us before we were even conceived. This means that He has planned us (Psalm 139:13). He from all eternity thought of you and me and allowed us to be (John 1:3). Life is sacred. From conception to natural death, all life is sacred an d must be protected. This first readings should remind us that God has a plan for each of us (Isaiah 49:1,5, Jeremiah 29:11).
Our existence is not a mistake or simply a consequence of reproductive acts between a male and a female. There is something much more deeper than meiosis and mitosis taking place as the fertilized egg develops. Like with Jeremiah, God tells us to “gird” the loins or ‘man up/woman-up.’ We must do what He asks of us and not let let this world crush us. The world will hate us because of God, but we must not give up (John 15:18). Proudly we must sing of God’s salvation as today’s Psalm tells us.
It is in the Lord where we take refuge. He will deliver us and never let us be put to shame though some will mock us (Psalm 50:15, Psalm 50:15). The Lord is indeed our rock and stronghold (Psalm 78:35). He will rescue us from the wicked. Our lives belong to God. We depend on Him for our existence. Our lives must proclaim the salvation and joy of the Lord. We do this by using the gifts God gives us as the second reading tells us.
God gives us gifts. Not everyone gets the same gifts (1 Peter 4:10). However, even if we have these gifts or all of them but have no love, then the gifts mean nothing. St. Paul tells 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.”
How true are these words! If I can speak all the languages on Earth, know all the theology, science etc in the world, know all the Bible, Catechism, Church’s teachings by heart etc, but do not have love, then all that knowledge, all that ability means zero, nada, zilch. It is love that gives substance to these gifts because God is love (1 John 4:8). In this year of Mercy, this second reading should speak to us much more. Many times we see clergy, religious and lay with all kinds of gifts who have foul personalities. They may be judgmental, rude, arrogant and nasty; this is not Christianity. This is not what God wants. If love is not present; if mercy is not present, then they are wasting their time. These people are like clashing cymbals that make noise but have no substance.
Finally in the Gospel, we continue from last week’s Gospel. Jesus reveals that Isaiah was referring to Himself. The Jews present took issue with this and asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” Jesus then reminds them that God sent Elijah and others to those who were poor and the pariahs of the time (1 Kings 17:7-16). He also reminds them that a prophet is not welcomed in his own land. Sometimes we try hard to work in a parish and get no support. This has happened to me many times. Even online, there are some Catholics who do not support me and try to stifle my evangelization. They see it as a ‘competition’ of sorts. We as prophets will not always be welcomed even among our own. However, we must not let this crush us as we read in the first reading. We must march on forward preaching the Gospel of love and mercy; reminding the world that God is Father before He is judge (Matthew 9:13). Not everyone will take a liking to this.
Like Jesus, you will be attacked and possibly driven away. The people wanted to hurl Jesus down a hill. The message of Christ and mercy is not easy to take for some. Today we have some who attack Pope Francis seeing him with suspicion as he was reminds us what the washing of the feet rite on Holy Thursday is all about. It is not a moment to take in nostalgia of the past or to remind ourselves that priests are men (Mark 7:13, Colossians 2:8). The washing of the feet is a sign of service, love, mercy and inclusion. Jesus washed the feet of those who walked the world, got dirty but decided to come to Jesus for forgiveness.
Will we reject Jesus and try to toss Jesus over the cliff who is found in the poor, in men, women, children; the elderly, the gay, the Muslim, Jew etc? Let us not reject Jesus and serve Him in others. Let us spread the Gospel with love, not fanaticism or legalism. Let us sing the song of salvation and remind the world that Jesus came for everyone and calls everyone back home in His heart. May Jesus Christ be praised.