Life & Soul Life and Soul

The Word this Week

Simeon in the Temple, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Fourth Sunday of the Year
Jer 1:4-5 & 17-19; 1 Cor 12:31 – 13:13; Lk 4:21-30 (Year C)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.”

The prophet Jeremiah’s account of his calling follows a familiar pattern. Despite a deep sense of unworthiness on his part, he was overwhelmed with the assurance that the God who had chosen him, even before he had been formed in the womb, would enable the ministry to which he had been called.

Fidelity to the Word of God and the values that it proclaims will inevitably involve conflict. A sinful world, turned in on itself, is reluctant to be challenged by a God who calls us to love rather than hatred, to generosity rather than exploitation and to selfless service rather than domination.

Such was the ministry entrusted to the prophet Jeremiah: “Stand up and tell them all I command you. Do not be dismayed at their presence. I for my part will make you into a fortified city to confront all this land. They will fight against you, but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you.”

Jeremiah’s calling foreshadowed the vocation of all the baptised. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Ephesians that we also were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, chosen to live through love in his presence. If we remain faithful to this calling, we, like Jeremiah, will sometimes experience opposition and rejection. In this we are following in the footsteps of Christ himself.

At the presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, Simeon, speaking to Mary, had anticipated the rejection that her Son would encounter. “You see this child: he is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected, so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”

Luke’s Gospel chronicles this rejection from the very beginning of the ministry of Jesus. The first act of that ministry had been to return to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. There, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, he claimed to be sent by the Father and anointed by him to bring the good news to the poor.

Initial approval for the graciousness of his words was immediately followed by suspicion and rejection. “This is Joseph’s son, surely?”

The selfishness of sinful nature habitually questions, and even rejects, any light that seems to burn more brightly than its own.

The true disciple will experience both the rejection of a sinful world and the assurance of the Lord who is with us to deliver us.