Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first reading has always been significant to me. I am a Jesuit in large part to my experience at the Jesuit high school in Houston. I had encouragement to attend the high school from my dad, who was in turn influenced by his own experiences as a student at the Jesuit high school in New Orleans. Even before I came into this world, God was setting the stage for my vocation. With all that care and attention for who we are from God, it seems strange that we would shrink from our vocations in the face of challenge from people around us, newcomers compared to God who have not given nearly the same time or thought into our downfall as God has in our triumph.
Jesus will not shrink or stand down in today’s gospel. He reads and preaches in the synagogue, and they find it too good to be true. Jesus does not just side-step the issue and go to something they can all agree on. He stays with their difficulty, and confronts it head-on. He says that He will not perform flashy signs just so that they will start to believe, and that what He is doing is in line with the greatest of prophets, Elijah. The crowd is quite literally ready to murder Jesus by the end. But, faithful to God’s word in Jeremiah, Jesus will “tell them all I command you,” and not worry about the crowds.
Crowds today have most of the same difficulties that they did at the time of the gospel. The gospel today challenges us: it is nice to say, with Jeremiah, that God will always take care of us and that we should trust God–but how far are we willing to take that trust? Not every mission from God will have a short-term end of sunshine and rainbows, as we see today. God has been preparing for our lives since long before our lives began. God’s preparations are not going anywhere, while challenges around us come and go. Looking at how God has formed us from the womb, we can see that God is a far more reliable source of strength, and continue in God’s strength in the face of difficulties around us.