Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013
In my college years in the seminary, we had this music director who is quite a person to put up with in terms of music. Among his special skills and genius is writing and playing music. We couldn’t get away with him because going to singing lessons was part of our seminary training. So three times a week we had to go to a music practice for an hour with him. Personally, I thought he’s just motivating all of us to learn how to read music or sing at least, which is not a bad idea. So no matter how tone deaf some of us might be, or how coarsed our voice would be like, we had to go to the singing lesson three times a week. I remember during the singing practice that he’d always make sarcastic comments about how badly some of us sang. But we had to put up with him. Despite his comments though, which were not always good ones, I have learned many things from him. One thing I learned was the way he told us not to get so familiar with the music because ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ as he would say. By this, he meant that even if we already know the song very well, by heart, we still have to hold our hymnbooks and follow the notes as we sang. He explained even more that if we get too familiar with the music, we could easily take the meaning, the beauty and the solemnity of the music for granted.
It is true indeed, too much familiarity breeds contempt. Too much familiarity leads to taking things for granted. And this is what happened in our gospel today. Jesus declared to his neighbours- those who knew him as he was growing up, those who knew his family relatively well- that the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled in him now as they could see. By doing this, Jesus has identified himself as the content, the fulfillment of the prophecies of the prophets. Yet, they couldn’t take him and his words. They couldn’t believe in him. He was just one of them. He was just ‘a son of a carpenter.’ He was just an ordinary guy like most of them. And because of this familiarity with him, Jesus’ neighbours, those whose house he might have built, those whom he might have dinner with, those whose children’s cribs he might have made, couldn’t take him. Because they knew him personally so they thought, they have taken him for granted. They have missed the opportunity of being his close friends and associates. They have failed to recognize him as their promised messiah, as the Good News for the poor. For them, he is too good to be true. Because of their familiarity with him, they missed the beauty of the God of Jesus Christ. They have taken for granted the abundant blessings that Jesus has brought to them. They couldn’t have faith in him. But as a prophet, Jesus was just being true to himself and to his mission. So no matter what other people say or think of him, he went on. As a prophet, he not only sees and observes his surroundings, he also speaks out what he has seen and has witnessed. He is a true prophet indeed even if his own folks wouldn’t recognize him.
But Jesus Christ is more than just a prophet. He not only proclaims God or tell God’s message to his people, he also reveals the beauty of our God to us, creatures. This is why it is so important for us to have faith in Christ, because only He is our way to God, the truth of God and the life for us. Apart from him, we can do nothing.
So what can we get from this?
This calls us to re-assess our lives, our Christian life in particular. Who or what is God for us? What place does Christ take in our day to day living?
To answer these questions, we need to review three important aspects of our being a son or a daughter of God.
First, how obedient are we to the will of God? Jesus was obedient to his Father’s will, no matter what awaits him, no matter what people say or think of him, no matter if it means giving up his own life. He is obedient even unto death. And so are we. We might tremble at this task. But let us always remember, God is behind us always. He has called us for this even before we were born. Let us only be trusting in Him as we carry out our prophetic role that we have shared with Christ in our baptism. Let us be consoled though by the words of God speaking to Jeremiah (Jer 1:4-5, 27-19) in our First Reading, that we may “not be dismayed’ as we stood up for our faith and as we carry out our vocation as the bearer of good news to the nations, for God is always here with us to help us and to protect us.
Second, how faithful are we in living out our particular vocation in life? This calls us to re-assess our own faith in Christ. What does faith mean for us? I like the definition of faith in the Catechism for Filipino Catholics and I share this with you. “[Faith] is not some ‘answer box’- it is not some ‘thing’ we have, keep and own. Rather, real FAITH IS A FORCE WITHIN US that by the power of Christ’s Holy Spirit gradually works a transformation in our daily thoughts, hopes, attitudes and values.” (CFC# 137). And this faith would only be our real power when we live in a true and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Because as Fr Pat O’Sullivan says: “When our relationship with Jesus is running truly, it influences the way we see things…” (Prayer and Relationships: Staying Connected- An Ignatian Perspective). So we then need to ask ourselves: How does this faith translate into our particular task as a father, or a mother to a family; as a friend; as the boss in a company; as the leader in the community; as the head of an organization; as a member of the Church?
Third, how deep, how true and how genuine our love is, as member of the family of God? St Paul, in our Second Reading would help us to answer this. For St Paul, real love is always patient and kind, it is never jealous, never boastful, never rude or selfish, takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth, always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. (1Cor 13:4-13) We can only love this kind of love though if we make room for God in our lives. This is crucial. Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for Lent (#2) for this year wrote: “When we make room for the love of God, then we become like him, sharing in his own charity. If we open ourselves to his love, we allow him to live in us and to bring us to love with him, in him and like him; only then, does our faith ‘active through love’ (Gal 5:6); only then does he abide in us (cf 1 Jn 4:12).”
So as we continue our Eucharistic celebration, let us pray that we may recognize the beauty, the blessings and the gifts of God for us and not take God for granted. Let us also pray that we may grow in faith and in love with God and with one another, because it is only through maturation in our faith, that our prejudices, our familiarity with God and with others may be purified and be transformed into a blessing for all of us. Amen.