4th Sunday of Ordinary Time year C 2016:
Today in the gospel we hear one of the truly remarkable stories in the life of Christ. The story starts off with amazing promise. Jesus proclaimed his mission as the Christ last week and we hear that everyone who heard this proclamation were amazed at the gracious words that come from his mouth. But, by the end of the story these same people were ready to throw Jesus off a cliff. Think about that for a minute. We go from amazement to murder in about 5.6 seconds. Obviously, Jesus touched a nerve somewhere. In the beginning, the folks liked to hear the words of Christ, but they didn’t really want to accept them. “This is just the son of Joseph… his words might sound nice, but who is he to really teach us? We are not going to change our lives because of what he says…” And when Jesus doesn’t back down, that’s when the hostility begins.
Now, I’m sure that most of us will say: hey, I wouldn’t be the one to pick up a stone to throw at Jesus. I mean, all of us are here because we believe in Christ, we are his followers, his disciples. The reason we are here is because we have heard the voice of Christ and we feel that sense of amazement. Hopefully the message of Jesus leaves us feeling inspired and enthusiastic. Jesus told us that he came to set the captives free. It’s that freedom that we desire. We recognize that Jesus is our savior.
But, it can be quite easy for us to remain on this level of amazement. Yet, it’s a whole other thing to let these words really sink in. It can be quite challenging to put these words into action.
I don’t know about you, but I have this experience whenever I hear St. Paul’s teaching on love. What a beautiful reading! It’s no wonder that so many people choose this reading for their wedding day. Love is patient, love is kind. Whenever I hear those words, I can feel a kind of elation. There is something very moving and inspiration when we hear about love. That’s because love goes to the very heart of what it means to be human. We are made in God’s image and likeness. God is love. So, love is the pathway to true happiness and fulfillment. We were made by love and for love. It’s not too much to say that the very vocation of every human being is the vocation to love.
So, like I said, it’s a wonderful reading and one that can really leave us feeling amazed and inspired. But, it’s really not that easy to love. I mean, if I asked you if you were a loving person, most people would say “yes.” I like to think that I’m a loving person. But, just think about all that Paul says: love is patient, kind, not jealous, pompous, inflated or rude. Love does not seek it’s own interest, is not quick tempered, doesn’t brood. Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. This is what it means to love. I think that, if we are honest, most of us would freely admit that we don’t quite match up all the time. Can I really say that I’m always patient, kind, that I’m not jealous or quick-tempered?
It can be really easy to be amazed by the words of Paul, by the words of Christ. But, it can be a whole other thing to live these words. But, don’t we want to? I mean deep down in our hearts I think all of us would want to have a life filled with love, a life lived with love. We want to be loved and we want to love. Like St. Paul says: if I do not have love, I am nothing.
So, how do we do it? I’m convinced that the only way we can live a life filled with love is to drink deeply from the very source of Love. We will only live love, if we know love. If we ever need to know what love looks like, we need to look no farther than right here: look at the cross of Christ. When Jesus is nailed to the cross he proclaims his eternal love for the Father and for all of us. This is what love looks like. Jesus gives himself completely and totally. He holds absolutely nothing back. He hands over his body, his soul, even his heart is pierced so that his love can pour out for us. By pondering the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ we come into contact with the very source of love. If we want to be patient, kind, generous, and loving. We can do nothing better than to draw close to Christ so that he can fill us with love.
Of course, Jesus has never stopped loving us. Right here on this altar he continues to pour out his love for us. He continues to give by pouring himself out for us in the Holy Eucharist. When we come forward to receive the very body and blood of Christ, he can fill us with his love.
Again, it can be easy to stay on the level of amazement and wonder. But, if we let the love of Christ into our minds and hearts he can change us so that as we leave this Mass we can live a life full of love. The people in the gospel were ready to throw Jesus off a cliff because they weren’t quite ready to let his love change their lives. What about all of us?