My Way or the Highway
Today is the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: JER 1:4-5, 17-19; PS 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17; 1 COR 12:31—13:13; LK 4:21-30
The reading today brings into sharp focus the difference between the way God thinks and we humans tend to do something else (react). The first reading in Jeremiah recounts Moses and the Exodus (gird your loins). In Jeremiah’s time, how God will rescue them too and you should have faith in your deliverer. The responsorial psalmist recounts how we are known and knitted in the womb and the one who made us will surely not forget us.
Then in the Gospel reading it all falls apart. Right after Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah (the ‘Spirit of the Lord is upon me’) he is confronted with our demand: My way or the Highway.
Startling isn’t it that in Jesus’ home town exists in many living there such interior discord that when Jesus continued to speak they basically said, ‘My way or the highway’ or more specifically they try to throw him off a cliff.
The pairing of the Gospel with the letter of Paul to the Corinthians helps us frame the question well and therefore help us choose the better path.
Isn’t this the son of Joseph? –there it is. This is a hint to the interior thoughts. Who are you to tell us anything? Wow, from praise to derision in 10 seconds.
Jesus offers insight to their interior discontent:
- Physician, cure yourself – you think you are better than us?
- Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum – do what we tell you for us!
- Yet, no prophet is accepted in his own native place – you are a simple man, no Great Prophet are you, Jesus.
Jesus recounts the ancient story about God’s love for all. This reveals the deepest discontent of all. He told them the story to help them break out of their self-interest and interior discord and to think more broadly about Godly love.
- Elijah – sent only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
- Elisha the prophet – cleansed only Naaman the Syrian.
Ouch! Or Ouch? Therein is the interior response.
Paul to the rescue
The apostle Paul brings this great divide into focus. How are we focuses interiorly?
Everyone in the crowd had gifts from God. Some gifts are obvious and grand. Some gifts are subtle and sublime. Depends what you do with them!
Paul teaches without love as the centering purpose and source of strength it is worthless.
Then he does the side by side comparison.
- Love is patient and love is kind verses jealous and pompous.
- Love rejoices with the truth verses inflated, rude, seeking its own interests, quick-tempered, brooding over injury, rejoicing over wrongdoing.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
The gospel message is kindness to the other, even your enemy. The Gospel is the power to do such things in love.
If you want to throw people over a cliff because they want to heal the sick, help the immigrant, feed the poor and tend to the widow and orphan… then know you are asking Jesus to pass through the midst of you and go away. And that brings tears to the eye of God.
Decide to love instead.