Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C

Unflinching Courage

If there ever was a man who was not afraid of anything it was Jesus. Again, let me repeat my statement. If there ever was a man who was not afraid of anything it was Jesus.

The Greeks have a word which we have adopted to name any extreme or chronic fear that we experience. This is the word "phobia". We have acrophobia for unusual fear of heights, hydrophobia for unnatural fear of water, and so forth. Just put the phobia after a word and you have fear of that word.

Some people have prayerphobia. When you ask them to pray in public, they give lots of excuses. They say, they have a soar throat; they cannot read the print in the prayer book because they did not bring their glasses, etcetera. The truth is that they have an unnatural fear of praying in public.

In contrast to us who have unfounded fears, Jesus was not afraid at all of anything. The Gospel reading today illustrates the unflinching courage of Jesus in the face of what would drive us to fear.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus' town-mates were filled with fury when he told them that he would not do any miracle for them as he did in the other places. "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 Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away" (Luke 4:29-30).

These people of Nazareth knew Jesus because he lived among them. They knew him as the son of Joseph, the carpenter. Jesus worked also among them as a carpenter. They were amazed that he spoke so well reading a portion from the prophet Isaiah and commenting upon it. When Jesus told them that he was the Messiah they had been expecting for so many years, the successor to the throne of David, the king who would liberate them from all their problems, they expected that he would prove this by a miracle because for them he was only an ordinary guy, a carpenter. But Jesus rejected their demand for a miracle. And they were terribly angry at him.

It is to the credit of these people that they did not take up stones to throw at him or a club to strike at him. No one dared to take up something to strike at him. They were afraid. Instead they gathered around him and by the sheer volume of their bodies  pushed him to a hill to throw him over that hill. In this way no one would be personally responsible for his death. All of them as a group would be.

But when they were about to push Jesus over the hill he looked at them with a look which they could not bear looking at. They were terrified by the expression of his face. Their bodies were immobilized and Jesus walked through their midst unharmed and went away from them.

The Gospel according to Mark (6:1-6) tells us that Jesus visited his hometown again but even this second time his town-mates lacked faith. So he cured only a few  of them. Mark tells us that their lack of faith distressed Jesus; it made him suffer pain.

Jesus was never afraid of anybody, whether it was his familiar town-mates, or strangers trying to trap him in his talk, rulers or spirits from the underworld. He was not even afraid of the violence of nature.

Once on a stormy sea his disciples who were seasoned fishermen were terrified. But Jesus was in the stern or rear end of the ship, "sound asleep on a cushion", as Mark describes him (4:35-41). The disciples woke him up and upbraided him for his seeming unconcern over their situation. Jesus rebuked the wind and told the sea, "Quiet, be still." The wind ceased and there was an immediate calm.

Jesus was not afraid of Pilate, of the Roman soldiers, of Herod. When he was told to go away because it was reported that Herod would kill him, he called Herod a fox, a wild dog.

Jesus was not afraid to suffer and die. He predicted his suffering and death many times. And he went straight to Jerusalem knowing fully well that terrible suffering and death awaited him there.

The Letter to the Hebrews tells us "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (13:8).

Jesus is still the brave person that he was. His enemies have multiplied all over the world. But he is not afraid. He is using all the violence that is now being inflicted upon him and upon his Church to renew creation. In the last book of the Bible he tells us, "See, I make all things new" (21:5).

The courage that Jesus had and still has he gives to us as one of his gifts. This is the gift of fortitude prophecied by Isaias (11:2). We simply receive it and we actualize it in our life. I had one occasion to actualize this myself. When I was once held up by two holduppers I just shouted at them and they ran like dogs away from me. It was the courage of Jesus being actualized through me. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to make us actualize this gift of courage.
Let us bow down our heads to pray. Dear Holy Spirit, our Comforter, you energized the courage of Jesus so that he was never afraid of anything in his life. Make us like Jesus in the face of the many enemies around us, the world, the flesh and the devil. For his sake and for the glory of God the Father we pray. Amen.

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