Pastor Column: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 3, 2019
Msgr. Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish
Dear friends / Estimados amigos,
Do you remember that after-Christmas reading of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple? Luke tells us that it was there that Mary, the mother of Jesus, heard the foreshadowing of the holy man, Simeon, that during her Son’s life He would be a “sign of contradiction.” How quickly we see this in this weekend’s Gospel at the very start of Jesus’ public ministry.
Jesus is in His home town of Nazareth. He’s been honored to proclaim the reading from the scrolls handed him by the rabbi (last weekend’s gospel reading). All His friends and family are initially taken by His eloquence, but then they turn quickly on Him in anger. Jesus could work no miracles there for them, and then He quotes the section of the proverb that a prophet is never accepted in his native place. The crowd grows more incensed, to the point of wanting to throw Jesus down over the brow of the hill on which Nazareth was built. In an astonishing turnabout, their reaction goes from pride and astonishment to wanting to kill Him.
Clearly Jesus’ Good News is not good news for everyone. Opposition would steadily mount as He and His apostles journeyed toward Jerusalem. People in the religious establishment and others would begin to question His intentions, undermine His reputation, and plot to trip Him up so as to discredit Him among the populace. Today’s readings remind us of the difficult road a prophet like Jesus or Jeremiah must travel to deliver God’s word of conversion. But God assures them of His protection and deliverance from harm. Paul’s famous reading about love is a reminder to us that Jesus came to conquer sin not by overwhelming might, but by God’s mercy for sinners. The greatest opposition to Jesus’ message was not from political enemies but from representatives of religion, who objected to His challenge of their claim to be the only ones who could access God.
Similar to Jesus, the “sign of contradiction” marks the life of a Christian disciple as well. We bear that sign of the cross on our journey through life. We try to be united with the mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. We all bear our share of the sufferings of the Body of Christ endured in every generation in order to redeem the world. By virtue of our baptism, confirmation, and receiving the Eucharist, every time we make the sign of the cross, we proclaim the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity dwells within us and is the source of our discipleship with Jesus.
Gospel joy is inseparable from our share in the sufferings of Christ. Whether we encounter them physically, mentally, or in the sacrifices and labors of our service, we are blessed to be united with Christ. The Communion that we all share ties us to one another in the Lord. So we die with Christ in order to share in His resurrection. How blessed are we to be signs of contradiction!