4th Sunday Ordinary Time C

Love Does Not Brood Over Injuries

The Sisters of Mercy are one of the best known orders of women religious in English-speaking countries. They were founded in Ireland in 1831 by Catherine McAuley. She was a well-to-do young lay woman who had already established in Dublin a “House of Mercy” where she taught poor girls and gave shelter to homeless women. Her new religious order soon became noted for its zeal in carrying on these types of social charity. It spread across Ireland and soon by invitation into other lands, especially where impoverished Irish people had emigrated. For Mother Catherine “mercy” meant “love in the face of misery”; and the world was full of the poor who needed love.

Mother McAuley was skilled at training her sisters for their special calling – demanding, but gentle. Every now and again she left her central house on Baggot Street, Dublin, to visit her novices and postulants who were at the Mercy convent in Carlow. The “learners” shared the Carlow nuns’ high regard for the founders with one exception.

This one candidate is the subject of our story. The historian of the Mercy sisterhood tells us “Reverend Mother McAuley was liked by all except one postulant in whose stocking she had observed a hole on a previous visit.”

Who was the postulant? No name is given. Did she persevere as a candidate? No statement on that either. But the facts stand. The young woman was not only embarrassed that Reverend Mother had noticed a hole in her stocking; she was angry with her for having pointed it out!

Robert Burns once wrote “Oh wad some power tho giftie gie us/to see ourselves as others see us”. We’re sent criticism because we do not like to admit our shortcomings. But criticism can be one of the highest acts of love. So we must not brood over it as a supposed injury, but welcome it as a gracious gift. After all unless we know we have a hole in our stocking, how can we mend it? (See 1 Cor., today’s second reading.)

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q565: Why would the people of Nazareth turn against Jesus so suddenly?

Today’s gospel story (Luke 4:21-30) is a continuation of the story from last Sunday. Last Sunday Jesus had demonstrated and claimed that he was the fulfillment of the Prophet Isaiah’s announcement of the anointed one, the Messiah, who would bring healing and good news to the poor and oppressed (Isaiah 61). His listeners had no problem at all with that claim of fulfillment by Jesus. In fact, they were just “amazed at the gracious words” that Jesus proclaimed in the synagogue.

But then they began to question his pedigree – his ancestry and his carpenter background. That sure didn’t sound to them like the proper credentials for a Messiah! Jesus knew where this would lead, so he reminds them of a truth, that no prophet is accepted in his own native place. He proceeds to give them two examples from the life of the Prophet Elijah, who God had sent to Gentiles rather than Jews – first to a Gentile widow in Zarephath during a famine, and then to cure a leprous condition of the pagan Gentile Naaman.

That is when things turned ugly, and murderous! The Jews were currently oppressed by the Roman occupation; that situation they could live with, because they believed it was only temporary until a Savior, a Messiah would come to save them. But what they could not live with was the idea that a Gentile would be placed on an even par with the chosen people! That was more than they could accept in their limited understanding of God’s plan of salvation, and their misunderstanding of their own role in that plan.

The actions of the local folks are clear: they wanted to expel Jesus from their town, by killing him if that was necessary. Consider your own actions. Do you realize that you expel Jesus from your life every time you choose to sin? How often have you taken him to the brink of your heart, and given him that eternity-losing push? The Good News is that this Messiah always gives you one more chance. It is up to you to take it.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The fullness of the Spirit that rested on the Messiah was not to remain only with Him, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people – a promise of Christ carried out at Pentecost and at our baptism (CCC 1287).

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Harden Not Your Hearts

A few verses before today’s reading, St. Luke tells us of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Satan had challenged him to throw himself off a cliff so that people would see the angels save him. Jesus’ response was “Do not tempt the Lord your God.” Today we see him challenged again. Jesus comes home to Nazareth. They have heard stories about the spectacular things he has done, so they wait to see what he will do for them. But instead he tells them of the great prophets who used their God-given gifts for the benefit of outsiders and that he is the fulfillment of this prophecy. They are more interested in seeing the spectacular so they drive him out of town. He does not call us to see and be impressed, but to take up his mission and benefit others.

Lord, help me to focus on the small acts of love and concern for others rather than what may look good and be impressive.

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