FOURTH SUNDAY – Year C – 03 February

All four Scripture readings for this Sunday come together in a powerful manner.

JEREMIAH 1: 4 – 5. 17 – 19

PSALM 71 or 70

1 CORINTHIANS 12: 31 – 13:13

LUKE 4:: 21 21 – 30

{It may be informative to understand why so often (the Psalm nearly always) omits particular verses (as in this Sunday’s Jeremiah extract) in a presentation of a single reading? The purpose of the scripture presentation each Sunday is solely focussed on a specific, overall, teaching / instruction. It omits, therefore, any verses which might introduce a distraction from the holistic message.}

The Psalmist is able to proclaim that “it is you, Lord, who are my hope, my trust, Lord, from my youth. On you I have leaned from my birth; from my mother’s womb, you have been my help.” His confidence is founded on the words of Jeremiah: “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you …”

A baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut. Now, it is true that despite the cutting of the cord, a parent always remains ‘the’ parent, and the baby always remains the parent’s child. Regarding our relationship with our God and Father, we need to remember that in some strange but real way the umbilical cord is never cut. We are always, we remain, attached to him. All our major problems and difficulties are automatically compounded when we either attempt to cut the cord ourselves or ignore its existence.

My personal experience tells me that the good Lord tugs at the cord at regular intervals but I often choose to ignore the jerk! I am, like it or not, permanently attached to him (or her?!). Therefore the Psalmist is able to proclaim “my rock, my constant refuge, a mighty stronghold to save me, for you are my rock, my stronghold.”

It is this divine umbilical cord which results in Jeremiah’s proclamation of secure assurance for each one of us: “I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, a bronze wall, against the whole land.” The Christian disciple must always have this conviction as responses are made to the daily challenges of life and living. In addition we are told “they shall fight against you, but they shall not prevail … for I am with you.” The basic connection is always there. We must be fully and confidently aware of this.

Of course we also need to be aware that none of this indicates or guarantees a free ride – or even an always easy one. Notice how both the Old Testament verses quoted above use the word against. Last week attention was drawn to the fact that often we have to march to a different tune …. swim against the tides and currents. Here, what is said this week begins to make sense. In addition, never forget more words from today’s Psalm: “you have taught me from my youth.” We must not forget the basic lessons. The first of these is that the umbilical cord is a lifeline. WE MUST USE IT!

It follows then that we must always, as Saint Paul tells us today, “desire the higher gifts.” I suspect the key word here is desire … to want and strive for earnestly. We must desire to be disciples, and strive to be. Paul emphasises the three basics of our discipleship – (a) we have to believe that we ARE disciples of the LORD, then (b) hope (work in the present to achieve our desire …. to achieve in this area {see last week’s reflection}, and (c) DO IT WITH LOVE!

The person who, for example, says I love golf, both desires and strives to reduce the handicap. This, of course, means doing it – practising it over and over again, always hoping for improvement, and believing it is possible.

If we study the person of Jesus as presented in the different Gospel narratives we should notice the frequency of his references to the umbilical cord he has with the Father. THIS FACT, TOO, IS INTENDED TO TEACH US SOMETHING ESSENTIAL.

Now, this Sunday’s Gospel reading makes two things very clear. In the first place, Jesus himself faced opposition – he was marching to a different tune, and was out of step with current customs and approaches. His thought process was different. Secondly, focus on the closing words of the extract. “But passing through the midst of them he went away.” Now look back at the prophet Jeremiah, and see how it all makes sense.

Do not fear opposition – pass through it and go on your way.