SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C) – February 3, 2019
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: The Prophetic Message.
A prophecy is a message that is claimed by a prophet to have been communicated to them from God. Such messages typically involve inspiration, interpretation, or revelation of divine will concerning the prophet’s social world and events to come.
The scripture readings for today are prophetic message that we are to act upon for our salvation. Both Jeremiah (Reading 1) and Jesus (Gospel) are sent by God to be God’s spokesman to the nations telling them that they need salvation because of their sins. Both experience strong resistance from the people. The proper response by the people to these salvation messages, that Jeremiah and Jesus preach, is summed up by the Responsorial Psalm – “I will sing of Your salvation for me.” Reading 2 is further salvation direction for the people as it identifies the nature of true love and how the people are to carry it out among themselves in order for them to be acceptable by God.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:15) They deceptively misrepresent divine revelation. This covers a wide spectrum of false teachers. Satan’s mission is to ruin humankind through seduction, temptation to sin, and to distance us from full participation in a Godly life with fellowship with one another.
Reading 1 – Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19 The Lord assures Jeremiah that He will deliver him from all who fight against him.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 71:1-6,15,17 A song in praise of God’s salvation.
Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 12:31—13:13 Paul describes love as the greatest of virtues.
Gospel – Luke 4:21-30 Jesus is rejected in His hometown of Nazareth.
This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, CatholicCulture.org, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.
NOTE: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document.
Reading 1 Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 (Call of Jeremiah)
Context – The Lord called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry in about 626 BC, just before and during the exile, and ended sometime after 580 BC in Egypt. He resided in the Southern Kingdom, ie. Judah. He was appointed to reveal the sins of the people, the coming consequences (ie. exile), and hope for the future (ie. bring his people to a state of perseverance for a better life after the exile). Jeremiah weeps for sinful Judah and is called “the crying prophet”. Jeremiah was viewed as a traitor and persecuted more intensely than any other Hebrew prophet ever had been.
Today’s Reading – This reading is about the call of Jeremiah to be God’s prophet (spokesperson) to foretell of the upcoming wars against Judah because of their sins which caused the violation of the Covenant. Then God prepares Jeremiah for the resistance he will receive from his own people who will become upset with these prophecies. This is very much like today’s Gospel reading where God prepares his Son, Jesus, to preach about the need for salvation because of the peoples’ sins and how they will react to Him.
The word of the LORD [i] came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you [ii], a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
But you, gird your loins [iii]; 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; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land: against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people. They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.” – God does not promise Jeremiah peace, but He does promise him victory. Meaning, there may be recurring battles to be had but Jeremiah will prevail. This Old Testament reading correlates to Jesus telling us “I am with you always” in Matthew 28:20.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 71:1-6, 15,17 (Proclaim the Lord’s Salvation)
This psalm expresses the feelings of one who encounters opposition but trusts deeply in God’s protection. We can envision both Jeremiah (Reading 1) and Jesus (Gospel) praying this psalm and so should we pray it.
R. – I will sing of Your salvation.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In Your justice rescue me, and deliver me; incline Your ear to me, and save me.
R. – I will sing of Your salvation.
Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for You are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
R. – I will sing of Your salvation.
For You are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth. On You I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb You are my strength [iv].
R. I will sing of Your salvation.
My mouth shall declare Your justice, day by day Your salvation. O God, You have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim Your wondrous deeds. [v]
R. – I will sing of Your salvation.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.
Reading 2 1 Corinthians 12:12-31—13:13 (The Power of Love)
Context – Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. Paul started the Church at Corinth in 51 AD and stayed there only briefly to get things started. Five years after the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed to restore peace and unity by fortifying their commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians takes aim throughout at two vices that underlie the Corinthians’ struggles: pride and selfishness. His second letter to the Corinthians was written to prevent them from falling prey to false prophets.
Today’s Reading – Perhaps Paul’s intent is best summed up in his own words: “Your every act should be done with love”. Having established love as an ethical principle and as a way of life, without which the manifestation (demonstration) of spiritual gifts has no meaning or value, Paul then proceeds to describe what love does and does not do.
Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love [vi], 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.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. ”So, faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – Of these three theological virtues, love (charity) is the most important. Love is greatest because it is God’s love poured into our hearts; faith and hope are our response to what God has first done. It is by love that we approach near to God, that we become His true image. “We love because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19.
Gospel Luke 4:21-30 (Preaching Salvation)
Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).
Today’s Reading – This gospel passage is a continuation of last Sunday’s gospel passage where Jesus read from the Scroll about Isaiah prophecy for the coming of a Messiah, and then Jesus stated that He was, in fact, this prophesized Messiah! Continuing from this, today’s reading shows the people’s initial positive reaction to Jesus. But, as He continued to preach, things suddenly go sour when Jesus reminds them of their sinful ways. They reject His authority to teach them. Especially when He tells them that God’s plan is to include the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles.
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?” [vii] 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.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. “Jesus passed through the midst of them” – Perhaps Jesus did this by making Himself all of a sudden invisible, or by striking them with blindness, or by changing their minds, and hearts, as He pleased. Theologians observe on these words, that Luke wished to show that Christ worked a miracle on this occasion, and by it proved His divinity to these Nazarenes who were with Him in the Synagogue. Prior to this, they thought He only had a human nature, son of Joseph (see Footnote #7).
Catechism 151 – For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One He sent, His “beloved Son”, in whom the Father is “well pleased”; God tells us to listen to Him. The Lord Himself said to His disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in Me.” We can believe in Jesus Christ because He is Himself God, the Word made flesh: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.” Because He “has seen the Father”, Jesus Christ is the only One who knows Him and can reveal Him.
[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“word of the Lord” = Jeremiah uses this phrase to emphasize that his message is truly God’s word.
[ii] “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I dedicated you” = This depicts God as a potter molding His clay, i.e. creating us in the womb of our mother. God Himself forms the child in its mother’s womb; the significance is that God knows us and He is our unique master from the very first moment of our existence (Psalm 139:13 – “For You formed my innermost parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”).
[iii] “gird your loins” = Literally it means – tighten your pants. But figuratively it means – make haste and take courage, prepare for immediate action.
[iv] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“On You I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb You are my strength.” = This is the same message as Reading 1 at Footnote #2, above.
[v] “My mouth shall declare Your justice, day by day Your salvation. O God, You have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim Your wondrous deeds.” = This corresponds to both Jeremiah (Reading 1) and Jesus (Gospel).
[vi] Reading 2 Footnote:
“If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love” = That is, supernatural love – what theologians term the virtue of charity. It is agape love (selfless, sacrificial, unconditional) as opposed to philia love (brotherly love/friendship) or eros (sexual passion).
[vii] Gospel Footnote:
“Isn’t this the Son of Joseph?” = The people in the synagogue that heard Jesus speak, only seem to know Jesus as the son of Joseph and watched Him grow up and think of Him only as human. They do not seem to have any knowledge of: His divinity; nor the holiness of His Blessed Mother Mary; nor the event of the Annunciation; nor the Nativity. I wonder why? Could it be that, as the Gospel states – “Mary kept all these things in Her heart” plus “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in Her is from the Holy Spirit.” – so he kept it secret. Plus, all the events of the Nativity occurred about 80 miles south of Nazareth in Bethlehem. When the Holy Family finally returned to Nazareth from their sanctuary in Egypt after the Nativity, some two plus years had gone by and the towns people probably lost track of them during that period.