31st January 2016
In the first reading from the beginning of Jeremiah, we hear of God’s announcement to the prophet that his destiny has always been to speak out on behalf of God. But he is somewhat of a country dweller unused to the city and the high life. In addition the traditions of his tribe are those of the northern kingdom, called Israel at this time (the seventh century BC), whereas Jerusalem and the kingdom called Judah, has a different approach to their religious history. But God still wants him to be bold enough to speak out even against the royalty at this time of particular threat from the Babylonians on the northern boarder, as well as against the religious leaders and the ordinary people of the land. God says that He will strengthen and protect him in the difficult task for which he quite naturally feels scared and inadequate.
In the reading from I Corinthians we have the beautiful literary gem from Paul about the importance and glory of the virtue of love. A passage with which many people will be familiar because some of its phrases have great popularity. I think Paul must have composed it almost as a poem even before he decided to include it in this letter, though we should not listen to it just as delightful prose and wonderful ideas. Rather we should see how each of its gems might say something to us and to our attitude to ourselves and the way we live out our lives – do we just speak hollow but loud words, are we patient with ourselves and others, do we seek our own interests all the time? As our lives progress it is selfless and real love that we should be developing as our lives progress, though we can only see things vaguely in this life.
The reading from Luke is the second part of last week’s tale about Jesus reading in the synagogue in Nazareth from the scroll of Isaiah – the passage not quite as the text we have in our bibles. Today’s gospel takes up the story after this. Jesus was claiming for himself an authority over the meaning of the text and applying it to himself as God’s chosen one who would bring the longed-for year of favour. The congregation were initially impressed by his words but soon realised that that raised difficulties for them, for they knew Him as the son of the local carpenter (untrained and insignificant in their small village). And if that wasn’t enough to upset them He went on to explain that in the history of their people, God often seemed to favour the non-Jews – as with Elijah and Elisha’s miracles – their infuriation, according to our reading, led to extreme anger, though Jesus managed to walk away from any danger they posed. We have an interesting reminder of something of the process of gospel writing, for in adapting this story from Mark’s Gospel, Luke has overlooked that he has transposed the story to almost the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, so that the sentence “Do here what you have done in Capernaum” makes no sense in Luke’s gospel because he hasn’t related any activity of Jesus in Capernaum it would make more sense if it were in Mark’s gospel.