Saturday, February 2, 2019

Feb. 3, 2019: 4th Sunday C

Feb. 3, 2019: 4th Sunday C

Love never fails. This bold statement from St. Paul sounds strange to us because when we look around, we see signs of failure to love. We open up the newspaper or even look around our community and see people who are not patient with others, people who at times seek only their own interests, and people who give in to anger and unforgiveness. While there are those who are more inclined to hear about the wrongdoings or failures of others, there are also those who rejoice in another’s goodness, those who bear the wrongs of others because they believe and hope in the redeeming love of Christ.

Our Lord knows our capacity to rise above darkness as well as our tendency to give in to evil. God told Prophet Jeremiah that before we were formed in our mother’s womb, God knew us intimately. Our Lord also knew how fickle his hometown folks in Nazareth could be. Last week, we heard how Jesus impressed his hometown folks who came to the synagogue and heard his preaching. This week we are told that people in that same synagogue felt insulted and became incensed by part two of Jesus’ sermon. They were so angry that they took Jesus out to a cliff to throw him off. His hometown’s violent rejection foreshadowed Jesus’ mission as well as his destiny--to set free those under the power of evil and to pay for the price of our freedom with the sacrifice of his own life.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could love God and our neighbor with the same great passion that Jesus has shown us? Is it impossible to boldly claim that our love never fails? Truthfully, we humbly acknowledge that our love falls pitifully short of how God loves us. Despite our best efforts, what we give to God and neighbor is always finite and perhaps tinged with selfishness; we always hold back something, fearing that we will run out if we give out recklessly. Yet there is a way to love generously as God does.  St. Paul provided a hint for us. He wrote to the Corinthians, “Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.”

What is the greatest spiritual gift for which we should strive? It’s God’s Love--His patience, His kindness, His perseverance, His Trust, and His Hope. God wants us to “borrow” His Love in order for us to love Him and our neighbor perfectly. How do we borrow His Love? Do we check it out from some library? In fact, we are going to borrow His Love in a few moments when the Holy Spirit transforms our meager offerings represented by the earthly bread and wine into the real flesh and blood of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, through your prayers and the prayers of the priest. Then representing all of us present in this church, the priest lifts the two gifts--Jesus’ flesh and blood--and says to God the Father, “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours forever and ever. Amen.” At that moment, we offer to God the Father, Jesus’ infinite sacrifice of love to the Father; at that moment, Jesus’ sacrifice becomes our sacrifice, and we love God perfectly with his own divine love. Even after Holy Mass, we are the living and walking Tabernacles, taking within us the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be able to love God and others in ordinary situations of life.

It doesn’t mean that just because we have the presence of Jesus in us we automatically choose loving actions. The moment we depart from the church after Mass we will struggle with being patient, kind, and compassionate. The recent revelation of sinful priests on the news is a sober reminder that even the ones closest to Jesus must make a choice to love in Christ every moment of their lives. Remember that Judas and Peter who were close to Jesus also betrayed him. We should take St. Peter’s words seriously, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Choose Christ every moment of your day, for His love is ready and available whenever we ask. “Ask and it will be given to you...For everyone who asks, receives..” (Matthew 7:7)