January 31, 2010
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?" He said to them, "Surely you will quote me this proverb, 'Physician, cure yourself,' and say, 'Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'" And he said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I do believe in you, and I long to open my heart completely to receive your Word in total faith and trust. I seek you ardently in this prayer so as to know you better. I want to know you so as to love you more completely as my Savior and Lord.
Petition: Lord, grant me the grace of active and total faith in you.
1. Mixed Opinions and Emotions
There is a striking contrast between the question, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”and its preceding line: “And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” It seems contradictory that at the same time as they are praising him, they are doubting him. But the Apostles also experienced mixed feelings, even during their last encounter with Jesus Christ before he ascended to heaven: “And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). Don’t we also sometimes find this same inner shakiness of our faith in Christ, even while we may be professing it with our lips? Christ knows the weakness of the human heart, but he will not force himself upon us nor work miracles without our sincere profession of faith in him. Nevertheless, he is willing to help us if we can only humbly recognize our weakness and implore his help. We have proof from the Gospel that he will not spurn the prayer “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
2. He Only Seeks Our Happiness
When we look at the panorama that Christ offers us from the history of Israel, he describes God’s true motive for encountering man, for seeking him out. Is it to bring him into submission and lay upon him an unsupportable burden of ‘holiness’? God, rather, is the healer and has no other purpose than to make these privileged souls happy. He yearns to lift a burden from their souls. He is there to heal and to elevate their whole experience of life. Ultimately, all that Christ needs to make them happy is that they have faith: an active and all embracing faith, a faith that is not diluted by rationalistic demands that condition their acceptance of God’s plan. Do I experience Christ only as trying to tighten the noose of responsibilities around my neck, or do I see that through what appears to me as difficult, he seeks only to bring out something more beautiful in me?
3. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega
Faith is not just for the future, not just to recognize Christ as the Omega—the end point of my journey where I find an explanation for death. Nor is faith just for when my personal plans have gone awry and I need an explanation for my moral and spiritual failures. Christ is not simply the caboose, trailing my life to clean up the disorders that pull my train off the track. Our Lord is also the Alpha—the beginning point. He is the engine that drives the whole process and the place from which every new initiative for advancement must begin. I must acknowledge that he is not just one means among others to live a good life. He is the source and summit of true life itself, goodness incarnate, and no effort of mine can have value or merit unless it is done in total dependence on him. Let my faith reveal this truth to me, so that my heart may be open more and more to making Christ my reason for living, my foundation for giving myself day after day.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, I want to open myself to what you propose to me in prayer and to eliminate all pride and human calculation at work in my heart and mind. I trust in you, Lord, for you seek only to make me happy, never to hurt me. When my own reason becomes darkened and my natural enthusiasm wanes before the mystery of your design, help me confide in and walk by your holy power and wisdom.
Resolution: Today I will offer an act of faith and trust in some desire of Christ for me, one that I originally met with fear or indifference.
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