Here is the cyberversion of my homily for the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Most everyone here has been to a wedding. And in even many non-Christian ceremonies there is either read, or perhaps sung, a significant portion of the text from the Epistle for today’s Mass. In I Corinthians 13, popularly called the “Love Chapter”, we have the familiar recitation of this famous theme of love. But…do we get it? As often as we may have heard it the reality of the message seems to be sadly lacking in many marriages, homes, and hearts. This leads us to ask, why… where is this love of which poets write and the human soul longs? Does this love exist? Is it for real? Does God love us and truly want us to be fulfilled in life …in love?
The discovery of the answers to these questions can be found in the Light of the truth of God’s Word. As we humbly allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts we can grow in the discovery of God’s plan and provision for fulfillment in true and eternal love.
To be Purged by God is the first and sometimes repeated step of the discovery of God’s Love. It is no accident that St. Paul shared the Holy Spirit’s long litany of what love is NOT. It is NOT selfish, proud, jealous or unforgiving, it does not rejoice in, or tolerate evil. It is dangerously possible that our faith, our impressive intellect, our sacrificial deeds or our impressive words can be empty, hollow of…Love. It is essential that we allow the Spirit of God to empty us of SELF and sin. We needs be purged of the lies of satan’s lies of hate if we are to know and experience the fullness of Love. This cleansing is ours as we allow the Spirit of Christ to lead us to the freedom of repentance and conversion to the truth of Christ, the truth of His love.
The Gospel today shares with us the sad account of Christ being rejected by his neighbors in the early days of His ministry. They heard Him. They saw Him. But they would not allow their relationship grow with Him beyond the futile limitations of their senses, their understanding. Hence they experienced the crippling of their faith that prevented them from seeing and discovering whom Jesus truly is. In rejecting Jesus they rejected Love. We cannot confine God or God’s Love to our limited concepts of how, who, where or when God’s love may prevail.
The Purposes by God for a life of fulfillment is shared in our first reading about the life of Jeremiah the prophet. Although the prophet’s life would include intense and painful events it would also bring profound fulfillment in Jeremiah’s life. A fulfillment that would cause the prophet to share about God’s plan for humanity: “I know the thoughts I think for you…thoughts of good and not of evil”. If we are to experience the reality and truth of this fulfillment we must seek to hear, to listen to the Word of God, the Word of Love. Now…. lest there be those who are squirming with thoughts of “sloppy agape”…. or the tragic lie that anything goes and that it doesn’t really matter what one believes or does, it needs to be clearly understood: The purpose of God is Love, a Love that would free us from the tyranny of sin and Satan and self. This may well mean that God’s Love will bring us to feel His chastisement and discipline in our life. Love will bring us out of the wilderness of sin and self to the provision of God, the place of fulfillment in Love.
The Place of fulfillment…where is it? Is it in the wedding ceremony? Is it in the experience and expression of the physical senses? Again the Truth of God’s Word helps us discover the answers. Jesus proclaimed in the Gospel…”Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” …The truth of Love, God’s Love is fulfilled today in our hearing. Whenever we can hear and receive in hearts of humble faith the TRUTH of the Scriptures we grow in fulfillment of Love. And, as always, it is vitally necessary to receive this treasure of the Living Word of God in God’s context. The promise and power of God’s love is NOT some romantic song experienced at a wedding. The Love Chapter is about marriage, yes, but even more accurately it is within the Body Of Christ that this discovery of fulfillment begins. It is between the chapters of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that this Love is revealed. It is to a struggling community of the Faithful that was being lead to confront real problems of sin and false teaching, a church that was striving to live forth the Kingdom of Christ in a hostile world of religious and secular persecution that God’s Love is discovered. And as Paul would later write to these Christians it is most powerfully in Christ’s Body we find Love.
We heard last week of some of the diverse attributes of our separated brothers and sisters in Christ. The love of Scriptures, music that beautifully proclaims God’s glory are all expressions of our discovery of God’s Love. But it is in listening to God’s Word, worshipping Him in song that the Holy Spirit would lead us to the Cross the place of Love, to Jesus. It is in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, His Sacred Body, His Holy Blood we discover and grow in this Holy and living Sacrifice of God’s Love. Here in our humble Catholic faith we can discover and know dimensions of fulfillment in Love that defy words and imagination.
The fulfillment of Love was there to be discovered in our Gospel account. Sadly the people in rejecting Christ through their lack of faith and empty knowledge rejected the fulfillment they longed for, the fulfillment of Love.
Today may we, in hearing His Word, beholding and receiving His Sacred Body and Blood grow forth in the discovery of the fulfillment of Love in our hearts, our homes, our church. Together let’s discover and share Christ who is Love.