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The Way of Rejection

January 31, 2016

Alexandre_Bida_Jesus_rejected_at_Nazareth_525_captionedA reflection for the 4th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year C. The readings are Jeremiah 1:4-5; 17-19; Psalm 70; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 and Luke 4:21-30.

 Check these out:
The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903: “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.”

The New York Times published in 1936: “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.”

Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM said in 1943: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

A Record label executive said in 1962: “Four-piece groups with guitars particularly, are finished. The Beatles have no future in show business.”

Ken Olson, president and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. said in 1977: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

An anonymous publishing executive wrote to J.K Rowling in 1996 saying that: “Children just aren’t interested in witches and wizards anymore.”

And Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, 2007: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.”

Funny, eh?

There isn’t one single new idea that has not faced naysayers, doubters and criticism. And there are probably many reasons for this, except I would say the main reason is fear: Fear of change. No one likes change. Remember when we made changes to the Mass three years ago? Do you even remember today what changes they made? Remember what we used to respond when the priest says, “The Lord be with you”? How about “Lord I am not worthy….”? I don’t even remember what the Gloria was before now that I am so used to the new words of the Gloria. But three years ago so many people were so upset that things were going to be changed. We are terrified of change.

And it’s been that way since the beginning of time. It was that way 2000 years ago. Today’s Gospel is a continuation from last week’s Gospel reading. Jesus has returned to his hometown: Nazareth. He goes to the Synagogue on the Saturday, as was the custom and has just read from the Scroll of Isaiah. He then says, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And as with any new idea, some people like what he’s saying and are amazed at him. Others seem to not be too sure. Others don’t like it at all.

But they don’t reject him because he just said that he is the anointed one. The Jews at the time believed that Salvation was only for the Jews. I think they were a bit upset that Jesus was not doing amazing things in the little Jewish town of Nazareth; instead he’s doing amazing things in the not-so-Jewish town of Capernaum. That’s why Jesus uses the two examples from Elijah and from Elisha: There were many Jewish widows in the time of Elijah, but to whom does Elihah go? To the non-Jewish widow in Sidon. There were also many Jewish lepers in the time of Elisha, but who gets healed? The non-Jewish leper, Namaan, the Syrian. Jesus is saying that Salvation is not just for the Jews; it’s for everyone! That’s why they reject Jesus. That’s why they rejected Elijah and Elisha and that’s why they rejected Jeremiah. Jeremiah didn’t want to be a prophet (no one wants to be a prophet). In today’s first reading God is actually telling Jeremiah that he will be rejected: “You are chosen; go; you have no choice; and you will be rejected. They will fight against you. But I will not leave you alone. I will not let them destroy you.”

Last week we had Confirmations in our parish and our pastor challenged the young people (and everyone) to not just be Catholics in name. To not be cultural Catholics. Having a baptism certificate is meaningless. There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world but that does the Church no good if only 10% are practicing their faith. If only 10% go to Mass every Sunday. Only 10% are involved in the life of the Church. Only 10% are interested in learning more about their faith and the Church. Only 10% are willing and able to stand up and defend the Church and our faith if needed. And I get it. It’s not easy being Catholic. We had a deacon mentor at the seminary who used to tell us that “if you want to be a deacon you have to make sure that you look good on wood. You have to look good on wood because you’re going to be crucified.”

When I met Cardinal Onaiyekan of Nigeria, he said that every time he spoke out against the violence he received death threats. He said he’s always asked by the media if he’s afraid. He says, “I am afraid, maybe. But I am not surprised. If we are Catholics we should not be surprised that we are persecuted. The way of Christianity is the way of persecution.” Who do we follow? A God who was persecuted and crucified. That’s our God. Mahatma Ghandi, a non Christian, said, “living Christ is living Cross. But a life without it is living death.” He recognised that a life with Christ is a life of the Cross; but it’s the only way to live!

Most of us are not called to martyrdom, like so many of our Saints and Blesseds that we venerate. Most of us aren’t even going to suffer great persecution. No one here is going to lose their job because they are Catholic. At the most we’ll be ridiculed or someone will make fun of us because we go to Mass on Sunday or they will criticize the Church or yell at us because we think life begins at conception or that Euthanasia is not a good thing. How do we respond? Not in anger or arrogance. We respond like St. Paul (who was persecuted and killed). He writes to the Corinthians who are fighting among themselves. (You want to be a Christian you’re going to be attacked by other Christians!) He suggests a more excellent way: Love.

We respond with patience, with kindness. We respond with humility. We respond with love that is never boastful, never proud. Love that endures all things, believes all things and hopes all things.

Next time you receive Jesus in the Eucharist; our God who was persecuted and crucified – or next time you pray – ask that you have the courage to be a Christian – not just in name. That you have the courage to follow Christ even if it means the Cross. And pray for the desire to follow Christ and to get to know him better and learn more about the faith and the Church. Pray also that you have the words to speak up and defend our faith passionately. Pray that you can be a prophet, as you make your way into the heavenly Kingdom where faith and hope will be no more because they will be fulfilled and only love will remain.

From → English, Reflections

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