Browsing Reflections

Fr. Jo's Reflection for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Yr C, January 30, 2022

Last Sunday, we read the prologue to St. Luke’s Gospel, written to a Greek (might be Roman) convert, by name Theophilus. We see from today’s Gospel that Luke has started to develop his message, meant to encourage and welcome the outsider, the outcast, the poor, and the rejected. Seemingly, the people left out in Luke’s account are the so-called People of God—Israelites, by ethnicity and geography. Hence, the reminder that Elijah was sent by God to a widow at Zeraphat in Sidon, not to a Jewish widow, though there were many of them. And Elisha healed a Syrian leper, by name Naama, though there were many lepers in Israel. Jesus was not surprised that His own people would reject Him because they claimed to know Him. They could not accept the truth from Him because it went against their long-established beliefs, prejudices, and sense of superiority. They rather sought to destroy Him by throwing Him off the cliff for daring to preach tolerance, reform, love, social and religious justice to a people whose minds were already made-up about the ways they wanted to go. So often have we thrown others off the cliff because we are stiff-necked and closed-hearted. We close our hearts to truth and love because we have already established biases and prejudices and we have built our lives to center around them and around three people, who happen to be I, me and myself. Luke’s Gospel challenges us to think outside the box; the truth may be around us but often we reject it because of the walls we have erected to stifle and silence it.

To measure actually how much we love the truth and are loving ourselves, St. Paul presents his lesson on love from first Corinthians 13, one of the best love poems ever written. We have heard enough of “I love you” and all those tired love expressions that do not stream from a true heart. Paul’s text fires up the soul if we bring ourselves to truly appreciate love.

As a little exercise, pick up the second reading of today found in the Word of the Lord Missal (p. 585-586). Read from the second paragraph which says: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (I Cor 13:4-7). 

Next, replace the word “love” with Jesus wherever it appears in the passage and you’ll hear how the passage sounds: “Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. He does not boast. He is not proud. He is not rude, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” Notice that it flowed very smoothly when you replaced love with Jesus, showing that everything written in scripture points to Christ. Every line seemed even truer. That is why the Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus is Scripture and the absolute manifestation of the true Love of God.

Finally, read the passage a third time, this time substituting love with your name, your first name, and the relevant pronoun for the pronoun “it” in the passage. After substituting love with your name, tell yourself the truth. Does the passage still sound true? Do you still agree with the passage? To what degree do you come close to the truth of love? Do you consider yourself a truly loving person? Are you honest when you tell others that you love them? Are you patient, kind, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, and so forth? You may have realized that you’ve been lying to people when you tell them you love them. You may have discovered today that you have a long way to go with love of neighbor. Love admits of nothing less than excellence, and “the measure of love is to love without measure.” Anything short of authentic Christian love misses the mark and gives love a bad name.

Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo


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