Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

During my time in St. Matthew Catholic church as a parochial vicar, I worked with a very wonderful nun who was extremely effective in working with young people. She was very positive and affirmed their goodness and worth. But she also did not hesitate, in a kind and gentle way, to put them on the right path when they were going in the wrong direction. I think that all of us like to be affirmed and lifted up, but I am not so sure that we appreciate it when we are challenged or called to task.

When Jesus began His public ministry, preaching in the synagogues of Nazareth and Capernaum, the people spoke highly of Him and were amazed at His gracious words. But things changed quickly when he began to challenge their ideas or convictions. They knew they were the chosen people and to be given the stories of the prophets Elijah and Elisha going outside to pagan peoples to work the wonders of God was not pleasant to their hearing. Jesus had gone beyond what they wanted to hear. Jesus was speaking a universal message from God, salvation for all.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, the great church father of the fourth century who commented extensively on Luke’s gospel said that those who heard Jesus speak treated his words as worthless.

I think the same happens today. When we hear words pleasing to us, we accept them, but when they disturb our consciences we might well dismiss them as worthless.

There are people who choose a church where they get good feelings from warm and fuzzy words. Certainly it is true that the gospel is a great word of consolation and refreshment, but it can also be harsh and demanding, as Jesus himself could be harsh and demanding.

Our “precious” savior can also be an “angry” God. The people in the synagogue were so upset they wanted to drive Jesus over the edge of a cliff, but His time had not yet come.

When we listen to the gospel, it is good to do so with an open heart and mind. The Church will guide us and teach us. The Holy Spirit will instruct us in all things and help us discern how to respond to the gospel in our lives. The one thing we do not want to do is to push Jesus to the edge of the cliff or regard his teaching as worthless. Jesus’ teaching consoles us for it is a gospel of love and mercy, peace and reconciliation. But it is also a gospel which says “come, follow me,” a gospel which calls for a conversion of heart and change in the way we live ■

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris