(Jer 1:4-5,17-19; I Cor 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:21-30)
Have courage to change the things that we can, and to accept the things we cannot change
On a fine morning with the rising of the sun the streets of Jerusalem were filled with the echo of a determined footstep. They saw a man walk straight into the presence of the King of Judah. He stopped before the throne and proclaimed boldly, O King of Judah, who sits on the Throne of David, Do justice; Do not do wrong to the alien Do not shed innocent blood.”
The listeners were taken aback by this proclamation. It came from a man whom they knew, the son of Hilkijah; a timid fellow who protested that he was a mere youth. He never dared before to speak in the public. Where did he get this vigour, strength and courage to walk into the palace of the king and warn him? This intruder was Prophet Jeremiah, sent by God to announce his message. He was empowered by God, and God’s power worked in him. His divine appointment wiped away his fear and equipped him with strength to carry out his mission.
The Lord told him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you came to birth I consecrated you;
I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.”
Prophet Jeremiah’s divine calling to announce the message of God is the theme of today’s first reading. Like Jeremiah, St Paul too was set apart. He wrote to the Galatians: “God chose me from my mother’s womb to preach the Good News” (Gal 1:4, Acts 9:15). And Jesus’ mission was revealed at the moment of his baptism.
“This is my beloved son, whom I have chosen.” All these passages show that from eternity there has been an election on God’s part. And each servant of God receives a definite call.
Prophet Jeremiah preached contrasting message. It was the tragic element of his life to constantly prophesy judgment, destruction and captivity. So he was contradicted by everyone: by his own family, by the religious leaders, by the king and the common people; he was accused of treason and put in jail. Such severe ill treatment forced him to say, I will not speak anymore in His name, but his faithfulness to God made him go ahead with his task.
Today’s Gospel presents us with another example of not wanting to hear the truth. We see that Jesus was well received at His inaugural address in His home town Nazareth. They marveled at the words that came from his lips. But when Jesus reminded them of two historical events in Jewish history about Prophet Elijah and Elisha they suddenly changed. During the long years of famine and drought Prophet Elijah was sent to a non Jewish widow, in a Sidonian town. Though there were several lepers in Israel, Prophet Elisha cured Naaman, a Syrian.
This was all terribly painful for the Jews of the time of Jesus because they believed that they were God’s chosen and that God’s love and favour were manifest only in and among Jews. Jesus’ words at Nazareth offended the Jews, because he was reminding them that their belief about God’s exclusive favour was baseless. They grew furious. They rejected Him violently, they attempted to throw Him over a cliff.
The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus because He had challenged their belief. History testifies that whoever has questioned what they commonly believed as truth was never accepted. Socrates, the great Greek philosopher tried to teach the people to think independently and find truth for themselves. It was unacceptable to the authorities and he was condemned to death. About 2000 years later Copernicus, A polish Astronomer made a great discovery that would challenge the belief of centuries. It was believed that the earth was the centre of the solar system and the sun and the planets revolved around the earth. But when he discovered that the Sun is at the centre and the earth and planets circle around the sun, nobody was ready to accept that. One hundred years after him, Galileo showed this fact to the people with the help of his telescope but he was arrested and silenced, because he upset their way of thinking and belief. They didn’t want to accept the truth.
Dear friends, our calling coincides with that of Jeremiah, with that of St Paul and above all with that of Jesus.
Revelation of truth will take place through natural events, through our fellow beings or through personal experiences. But we should have openness to accept them.
Francis Bourgia was a high ranking Official at the court of Emperor Charles V. He was very much impressed with the beauty of Empress Isabella of Portugal. At her death he convoyed the corpse to her burial place in Granada. When he saw the effect of death on the beautiful empress he was shocked. He realized the futility of serving mortal masters. This lead him renounce all worldly titles and enter the Society of Jesus. St Francis Bourgia spent the rest of his life at the service of the Lord.
When our beliefs are challenged; when we are confronted with truth that requires us to change, to change our attitudes towards people, to change the way we live, to change our approach to people and to change our attitude to work we should have the courage to do so.
Let us pray with Reinhold Niebuhr
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things that I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference
(Neh 8:2-6,8-10; I Cor 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4,2:14-21)
Dear friends, God’s laws instruct us, educate us and lead us forward. Finally we are placed in a situation where only two roads are open before us. There we have to make an ultimate choice. To follow God’s precepts and attain freedom or to discard them and end up in doom.
The first reading presents before us a beautiful scene. Ezra the priest read the law of the Lord to the people. Upon listening the law they were compelled to make a decision to follow the precepts of the lord. The passage from Ezra proclaims loud the importance of reading the word of God. He read the law of the Lord to a generation which was born in captivity, and was not aware of the traditions, customs and religious practices of the Jews.
The passage reminds us of the importance of reading the word of God especially at home. Read the word of God to your children and grand children, let them be imbibed in the deep spiritual treasure that the religion gives them.
The word of God demands an immediate response.
When the word of God reached King David, he became aware of him sin and repented. When the prophets announced the word of God to the people, they became aware of their sinfulness and repented. When the Israelites listened to the reading of Ezra, they wept and expressed their repentance.
The word of God gives great hope.
In today’s Gospel we see that when Jesus finished reading “all the eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.” The words of Isaiah gave a great hope of the promised messiah. The words of Amos proclaimed Social Justice. The words of Mica proclaimed liberation for the captives. The words of the apostles were listened to with great hope. Whenever Jesus spoke there was great expectancy in the people.
The word of God is Shocking.
It challenges the attitudes and values. When Jesus announced “this text is fulfilled today even as you listen” it shocked the Jews. When Jesus taught them to follow a new law in the place of “eye for an eye”, i.e., show the right cheek to the one who strikes on the left it shocked his hearers. When Jesus announced that the poor, the down trodden and sinners will be accepted into the Kingdom of God it shocked His listeners.
The word of God demands humility from us.
As Christians, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, we are commanded to clothe ourselves with humility. [Col. 3:12] Whoever becomes humbles like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven . [Mt. 18:4] He who humbles himself before the Lord, the Lord shall exalt him. [Jas. 4:10] For God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. [1 Pet. 5:5-6]
The word of God demands unity.
Today's Second Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians revealed to us how important it is for the members of the Body of Christ to be united. Each of us has been called to serve the Lord Jesus. While I serve as a priest, you may serve in the choir as a musician or as a singer. Some are called to be Deacons, others as Extra-Ordinary Eucharistic Ministers. Still others may serve as Altar Servers, as Gift Bearers, as Lectors, as Ministers of Hospitality, as Secretary, as Knights of Columbus, etc... And let us not forget those who have the spiritual gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, of interpretation, of leadership, etc... With each calling comes spiritual gifts to equip each and everyone of us for the benefit of the Body.
(Sunday after Epiphany)
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)
Feast of Epiphany
Is 60:1-6; Eph 2:2-3, 5-6; Mathew 2:1-12
Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word epiphany means “Manifestation” (or appearance).
God has manifested to mankind in various ways.
Bible gives many accounts of God’s manifestation. Moses was tending his flock in mount Horeb (Ex 3:1-7). Then he saw a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. The bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And God called him out the bush, and said: “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God manifested to Abraham in the form of fire on mount Horeb
Again we find God manifesting to the people of Israel in thunder and lightning. Israelites gathered together at the foot of Mount Sinai. There appeared thunder and lightning, and God appeared in the clouds and descended on Mount Sinai in fire, and God spoke “I am the Lord your God” (Ex 19).
We have a number of Biblical accounts of manifestation of God to mankind.
Finally God has made himself known to us most dearly in Jesus Christ. St Paul in his letter to Hebrews writes that Christ is “the perfect picture of God (Heb 1:3)
Man reacted differently to the manifestation of God. When Moses witnessed the presence of God in flames, he was taken up with wonder. He wanted to go closer to understand the secret of the mysterious flames. When God appeared to the Israelites in thunder and lightning they were overcome by fear and they fell on their face.
When God revealed himself in Jesus, the shepherds flocked together to the manger to have a look at the new born babe. The wise men saw the sign of God’s messiah in the sky and followed it to the manger with their gifts.
Today’s first reading gives an account of the prophecy of Isaiah.
“Above you the Lord now rises
And above you his glory appears
The nations come to your light
And kings to your dawning brightness
The wealth of the nations comes to you
Everyone in Sheba will come
Bringing gold and incense.
In today’s second reading we listen to St Paul that the mystery that was unknown to any man in the past generation has been revealed now. Jesus is God’s mystery and that has been revealed to everyone now. St Paul found the mystery and he walked to the sword to bear witness to the mystery. St Peter had a profound experience of the mystery and he willingly embraced the cross and accepted martyrdom to bear witness to Jesus. St Thomas went to the East bearing the mystery in his heart to be martyred there. So did all the Apostles, Saints and Martyrs.
Science has empowered man to cross the gravitational field of the earth and leap into the space. Human beings roamed in the space, they circled around the planets, and they walked on the surface of the moon. Great achievement of human intellect and industry. Even there one of them declared "I looked and looked and looked but I didn't see God."
To search for God it is not necessary to cross the boundaries of the earth. God manifests himself in his creation. The rhythmic movement of the numerous galaxies, countless solar systems, planets and satellites manifest God’s wisdom and love. Newton wrote, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is his duration reaches from eternity to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity; he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things.”
Secondly God manifests himself to us in other people, in our parents, who gave us life; in our brothers and sisters, who love us; and in our friends, who stand by us in our struggles.
Then, God makes himself known to us in every event of our life. Oscar Hijuelos’ Mr. Ives’ Christmas is a wonderful novel. Edward Ives had an aptitude for drawing, he grew up and met his future wife in Art classes, he became a commercial artist. His wife gives birth to a son and a daughter. One afternoon, as he is walking on Madison and Forty-First Street in Manhattan, he has a full-blown mystical vision---the sidewalks under him lift, the buildings waver, the skyscrapers bow to him, he feels euphoric, the world’s goodness spins around him.
Mr. Ives is a devoutly religious man. But he doesn’t tell anyone else about his vision.
The next Christmas his son is senselessly murdered on a street corner. At some point the question becomes whether he can or should forgive the man who killed his son. If only he had a sign.
The world is filled with signs of God’s presence. But in our spiritual blindness, our hardness of heart, our deafness to the Voice we fail to recognize them.
Once we discover God for us, we have to transform ourselves into another star in the vast expanse of the universe. Our life, our acts of kindness, our sympathy and our selflessness will fall on others as powerful rays that radiate the warmth of our experience of God.
Like the star of Bethlehem that led the shepherds and the wise men to the manger, we will shine as guiding stars in our homes and wherever we go.
Satish Email: firstname.lastname@example.org