|by Angela Lambert|
January 31st, 2016; Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Gospel Luke 4:21-30
Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. 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. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.
Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of Christ in this passage. All too often so-called friends or groups of admirers show their fickle nature by turning on us at the first instance we upset them, let them down, don’t meet all of their expectations, or they simply become distracted by something else. The home-town crowd listening to Jesus turn from amazement at His gracious words to anger which impels them to hurl Him down a cliff it what seems like a moment.
The daily Gospel readings from this week shed some useful light on this situation that can help sooth our disillusionment. Jesus responded to both praise and rejection with the same calm demeanor. He knows human nature and refrains from getting worked up about the opinion of the masses. His mission is to do the will of the Father not to poll focus groups. Moreover, Jesus teaches that all any of us can do is the will of the Father, the results are in God’s hands not our own. This works both ways – when we seemingly do great works and when we seemingly fail. In Thursday’s Gospel reading from Mark 4:1-20 Jesus told the parable of the Sower and the Seed. As a teacher and mother this is one of my favorite passages. Jesus, and His servants, have the responsibility to sow the seeds of the Gospel wherever God sends. How those seeds grow depends on the soil, or the disposition, of the receiver. Jesus’ words quite often fell on hearts that were hardened toward Him or too distracted by greed or anxiety. Why should we be surprised if we experience the same thing? Sometimes Jesus’ words fell on generous hearts and the Holy Spirit was able to work wonders through His followers. Again, can we really take all the credit when our work bears rich fruit? Some of the credit belongs to the person of faith willing to “hear the word of God and obey it” (Lk 11:28). Thus, Jesus places higher honor on two foreigners over God’s own children the Israelites because they were willing to do something in response to God’s word. Finally, credit ultimately belongs to God. In Friday’s Gospel from Mark 4:26-32 Jesus reflects on how a farmer plants seeds and harvests the crops but the entire process of growth in between is due to the mystery of God’s work in nature.
This Gospel should give us peace that God is in control. He opens people’s ears to hear and eyes to see if He chooses. He decides what persecution He will allow toward His servants and what He won’t allow. In this Gospel Jesus calmly and effortlessly passed through the angry crowd, demonstrating God’s total control over the situation. During His Passion however, God allows His Son to be taken by the angry crowd in the Garden of Gethsemane and eventually crucified. Yet, by the power of God Jesus also rises from the dead. Disciples of Christ can take comfort in Jesus’ words He so often speaks: “Peace be with you” and “Be not afraid”. We can let go and let God because our only task is to do the will of the Father and let Him bring our work to fruition. We have the joy of being His instrument, but the music played through us belongs to Him.
- Have you ever had an experience like Christ’s where a friend or an acquaintance turned on you? What did it teach you about relying on the opinion of others?
- How much do you worry about what other people think of you?
- Do you trust your children to God or do you put all the pressure for their good on yourself?
- In John 15:1-5 Jesus asserts that our fruitfulness depends upon our connection to Him.
|“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”|
- How often do you begin your work with prayer?
- Do you pray for the people in your life?
- Do you pray for God to guide little decisions and everyday tasks in addition to the larger ones?
- How has bringing things to prayer enrichened your experience or the outcome?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Whatever your work may be, take time in prayer to surrender it to Christ each day. Ask for Him to guide the process as well as the outcome.
- Choose a time in the middle of your day to connect with Christ. Decide on when, where, and how – even if it’s as simple as 5 minutes of silent prayer or reading Scripture at your desk during lunch.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016
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