Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing. Last Sunday, we read that the Lord read a scroll from the prophet Isaiah. When He finished reading it, he immediately identified himself with it: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” This Sunday, we read how it all ended: “They rose up, drove Jesus out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.”
The problem with ‘us’ is that we like and respect people we don’t really know, and we expect it to stay that way (because most of us feel safe that way). But the problem with Jesus is that He wanted people to know Him very well. Well, they didn’t like that; that is, they didn’t like what they saw and heard. Or better yet, they didn’t like being told what God was like.
Jesus was “ruining” their “image” of Him.
It’s true! The Lord opened the doors of heaven wide open and pulled off the mask of God and did not hide a single thing from us. For the first time in human history, we saw God’s face, hands, feet, heart and mind. And what did we see? We saw Him: Unconditional love. Love for all mankind, even for lepers and sinners. We saw an unconditional invitation to dine with Him. We saw Him speak to all types of people, even women, even adulterous women as well as a Samaritan woman.
So what was the problem? All of the above! It was way too much!
The Lord did not hide a single thing from His people. He was perfectly honest, perfectly faithful and perfectly thorough with them. Jesus Christ revealed ‘Our Father’ and it blew our minds, especially the Jews.
Now the problem was not with the Lord, it was with His “image”: with us. For when we looked at Him, we looked through broken lenses and mirrors: with a broken heart and mind. “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror” (1Cor 13:12).
What truly brought Christ’s popularity to an all time low was the fact that He did not confuse mud with skin. In other words, he didn’t do what people always did back then: hate the sin and the sinner. Nor did He do what so many of us do today: love the sin and the sinner. Rather, he hated the sin and loved the sinner.
God is capable of getting through the thickness and muck of sin and right to the child he formed long ago. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I consecrated you” (Jer. 1:4).
Our Savior Jesus Christ did not come into the world as the world expected Him: as some mighty Ninja ready to chop off the hands and heads of sinners and unbelievers! THANK GOD for that. For most of us continue to see ourselves not as we truly are, but as we would like to be seen…and left ‘unknown’. What is clear is that the Lord did He come into the world as we would have liked him too. Instead, he came into the world as He truly is: Love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1Cor 13:4-8).
This is not some sentimental nonsense. This is not some blubbering gobbledygook. St. Paul was not that kind of guy. What St. Paul wrote are the brutal facts concerning love. And each fact comes from the life and death of Jesus Christ our Lord. Replace the common noun “love” with the proper noun “God” and you will know exactly what I mean. You will know that love never fails because love is connected to the Three Persons that never fail.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child. Children can be very selfish and/or possessive; the very opposite of love, which is selfless and generous. No wonder why God (and Mary) calls us “children”! Now childish behavior is not necessarily reserved to a certain age, nor is it necessarily overcome by a certain age. Instead, it is overcome by a conversion of heart and mind; a change of heart and mind; a 180, in the direction of Our Father.
I sometimes wonder if I will ever get there.
I wonder because of last night. Last night, I thought I had been invited to the Bishop’s dinner. I drove ALL THE WAY OUT THERE (approx. 5 miles from St. Monica) thinking I had a reservation. I was wrong. I had no such thing. So, I drove ALL THE WAY back home.
Needless to say I was upset, hungry and feeling sorry for myself. I should probably include the fact that everyone on the road was driving far too slow and annoyingly (as opposed to me driving far too fast and recklessly).
Now right before I got home, I stopped at a Wendy’s and ordered some fast food ‘fish’ to finish off the evening in pure agony. At the drive-thru, I was further annoyed by the woman who taking my order. She asked me if I wanted cheese (with my fish sandwich) right after I asked for a frosty. I asked her if she was asking me if I wanted cheese with my frosty (I can be very sarcastic when I am feeling sorry for myself). Regardless of my silliness, she remained calm and courteous. When I got to the window to pay, the woman who took my order noticed that I was a priest. I noticed she was a parishioner. When I gave her my credit card, she told me, “No Father, this is on me.”
Earlier in the evening, I must have told at least a dozen people to read and meditate on St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, verses 4-13. This evening, I’m meditating on it myself.
To love God requires the same faculties it takes to believe in God. I don’t repeat every Sunday that I believe in God because it’s difficult to believe it. I say it because it’s difficult to realize it; to live up to it.
The same holds true with love. I don’t keep telling someone I love them because I have a hard time believing it. I tell them I love them because it’s hard to realize it; to live up to it.
Woe to me if love is just a sentiment, and not an act of the intelligence; an impulse, rather than a heartbeat.
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