Fr. Rick’s Homily – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 30, 2022

Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; Ps 71:1-6, 15-17; 1 Cor 13:4-13; Lk 4:21-30

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Today after Communion:  Fifth Sunday Collection, Charity Account for local outreach.

The first reading today and the Gospel both speak specifically of the role of prophet.  First with Jeremiah and then with Jesus, Himself.  In describing the role of prophet, The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph #64:

“Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts.  The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations.  Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary.”

Both Jeremiah and Jesus were designated, called from the womb, to their roles as prophets.  First reading:  The word of the LORD came to me, saying:

            Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

                        before you were born I dedicated you,

                        a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

Gospel:  “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”…

  A few verses later:  And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”  We recall, too the birth story of Jesus and His long genealogy from the Gospel of Matthew and the story of the Annunciation, Visitation and birth in the Gospel of Luke.

A full consideration of the lives and missions of these two prophets also shows that they are strongly resisted and persecuted.  In the Gospel of Luke today it specifically says that the people want to take Jesus out of town and throw him off the side of the hill!  All the gospels of course are full of accounts of the rejection, humiliation, persecution and ultimately tortured death of Jesus as a response to ‘the radical proclamation of the redemption of Israel.’  So, why would people want to kill Jesus just because He wanted to redeem Israel?  Were they against ‘the purification of the People from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations?   Were they especially opposed to the Lord bearing hope to the poor and humble?

Those of us who have especially strong devotions to the Blessed Mother can easily guess how Jesus was destined for a life of persecution and rejection.  Recall way back at the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth’s house in what is now called Mary’s Magnificat?

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.

He has shown might with his arm,

dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things;

the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,

according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Of course He will meet resistance.  And recall of few verses after Mary’s proclamation when Simeon proclaims to Mary at the presentation and blessing of Jesus in the temple;  “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted!  (and you yourself a sword will pierce)* so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

So what’s this got to do with us?  We will recall at our own baptisms we too were anointed into the offices of priest, prophet and king.  Many of you who baptized your children or were Godparents at a baptism may recall this anointing with Sacred Chrism on the crown of the head.

The role of prophecy is written right into the very calling of the laity in the world:

Again from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 898  “By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will. . . . It pertains to them in a special way so to illuminate and order all temporal things with which they are closely associated that these may always be effected and grow according to Christ and maybe to the glory of the Creator and Redeemer.”

899 The initiative of lay Christians is necessary especially when the matter involves discovering or inventing the means for permeating social, political, and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life. This initiative is a normal element of the life of the Church:

Lay believers are in the front line of Church life; for them the Church is the animating principle of human society. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the common Head, and of the bishops in communion with him. They are the Church.

We can refine this lay calling even more with a deeper sense of our roles as desert dwellers.   As far as I know, I was the only one actually assigned here in Kanab by the Church.  Everyone else came here on your own accord, right?  (Loud buzzer sound)  In fact, by your very anointing you were called here by God to be priests, prophets and kings.  Moving to such an out-of-the-way place as Kanab likely had to be a well thought-out and deliberate decision; the decision to be a desert dweller.  I think it requires a type of desert spirituality to be drawn to this place without so many of the amenities and ready-made distractions of a more urban setting.  We are wired for this place.  A desert spirituality might have many of the same characteristics as we see in the eremitical life, i.e., the life of a hermit.  Again from the CCC:

Eremitical Life

# 920 … hermits “devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.”

# 921 They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.”

Now we are bumping up very closely to today’s second reading which explains the real prescription for love.  This description of love reflects the fuller implications of chastity which we covered last week.  Personal intimacy. The type of love described in 1 Corinthians requires a refined sensitivity and sense of self.  Hermits gave themselves the time and space to consider things more deeply and extensively.  Desert time.

What type of prophetic missions and controversies might we find ourselves embroiled in out here in Kane County?

I’m sure you have heard of the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument.  Currently comprises about one million acres of minimally trammeled open space; the type of space particularly suitable for ‘hermits’ and those given to biblical sized thinking and praying.  The size seems to fluctuate depending on which party occupies the White House.  There are lots of complicated issues surrounding the size and use of the Staircase which is why there is this extreme back and forth.  The issue requires biblical wisdom to fully appreciate the sacred nature of this powerful expanse.  A prophetic teaching mission is called for.

Many have noticed the ever increasing polarity between our major political parties.   One of the key polarizing issues we ironically refer to as ‘Pro Life’ and it usually refers particularly to the legalization of abortion.  A person’s right to a legal abortion in the United States being seriously contested this year and will likely get overturned.  Overthrowing this law will not, however, guarantee the end to fornication or ensure greater chastity.  Chasity is what 1 Corinthians is talking about.  It would be one of the fruits of a desert spirituality or ‘eremitical’ lifestyle described above.  It will be interesting to hear how chastity gets discussed and modeled if Roe vs. Wade gets overturned.  Think of the last few prolife Presidents and Senators we have had who campaigned on their prolife record.  How well have they spoken about and modeled chastity before and after they held public office?  How have they encouraged this deeper sense of interior refinement? 

What if this discussion leads to a rethinking of the pervasive use of artificial contraceptives in our culture – among all ideologies?  That topic could cause some real conflicted conversations even among the people currently sitting in this church.  Another very, very complex issue that requires desert levels of prayer.  It will require a level of love and dialogue that is “… patient and kind.  It would not be jealous or pompous, not inflated, or rude.  It would not seek its own interests,  not be quick-tempered, would not brood over injury, or rejoice over another’s wrongdoing but would rejoice with the truth…..

This type of loving and teaching requires real desert time.

Perhaps this week we might reflect over the following questions which are also listed in today’s bulletin:

How and how often do you find yourself challenged with the demands of the role of prophet as modeled by Jesus, Jeremiah and the biblical women mentioned above?

What prophetic message have you accepted as your personal calling?  When did you reject the calling?