|The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19
Psalms 71:1-6, 15-17
First Corinthians 12:31--13:13
Today, here in the United States, time stops, hearts stop, perhaps God stops; it is the day of the Professional Football Championship, humbly known as the Super Bowl. The two combatants have had two weeks to grow in respectful hatred of each other. Songs and poems have been composed in support of and against. Each coach and team and their fans all want good to triumph and evil destroyed. It is the ancient clash reduced to sixty minutes and five hundred square yards of Florida turf.
Today’s liturgy’s readings have aspects of such a struggle. Jeremiah tells us of a future prophet who will be girded, he will not be crushed, will be a “fortified city,” “a pillar of iron,” “a wall of brass,” and he will be fought against, but his enemies will not prevail. Now that does sound like a prophecy preparing for a Super-Bowl life.
We are presented with another picture of conflict in the beginning days of the life of Jesus. Last week we heard Him read from the scroll announcing His identity as the fulfillment of the prophecies. All are in amazement at His saying such things, but the drama begins to heighten when He insults them by referring to well-known stories about how other prophets such as Elijah and Elisha, who did not do the great saving deeds in their own homeland, because of the lack of faith there.
When the town folks of Nazareth heard this they rose up to defend themselves and the battle was joined. So from the very beginning Jesus is in a loving battle for winning our responses of faith. He certainly got the attention of His listeners last week and their admiration. Today He gets even more attention, but also their wrath, because He insulted their conventions. He does believe in Himself and Who He is to His Father. With this faith and trust, He enters the combat with simplicity and a fearless spirit.
I have often wondered if I could face being a participant in a really big game such as the super Bowl. Could I be a ball carrier who had to make the winning play or the kicker who lined up with a second to go and make the winning score. My fingers tremble on this keyboard just thinking about it. Then I reflect, about how I do, when facing any opposition at all.
The battle continues between Jesus and the opposition of darkness, selfishness and fear. The contest is within each of us and between us and the spirit of the world. In a strange way, it is a blessing to feel Jesus’ teachings insulting our own conventions, prejudices and insensitivities. We are followers if we don’t want to get rid of Him by throwing Him over some cliff of indifference.
We continue following Jesus as we live insultingly simple lives of seeking and speaking truthfully, compassionately and personally in the face of this-world’s greedy ways. We do not want to offend anybody, but we just might by our not buying into fearful conformity and cultural cruelty.
I wonder if the folks of Nazareth thought that this Jesus, the “Awaited-for,” would put their town on the map. They would be famous for being the home of the Messiah. What Jesus came to do was to make a map of mercy, healing and freedom according to His mission. Whatever it took to get attention, Jesus did publicly, privately and always. We continue tracing that map and sometimes we will meet the opponent, the enemy, and the other side. With us, as with Jesus, we join the battle with both fear and faith. What do we do if we drop the ball, fail to succeed? Do we punt?
The Super Bowl will come and go, but the Supreme Bowl is ours for the winning through Him, with Him and in Him.
“Let your face shine on your servant, and save me by your love. Lord, keep me from shame, for I have called to you.” Ps. 31,17-18
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