Weekly Bulletin & Pastor's Note - February 3rd, 2019

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Pastor's Note for Sunday, February 3rd, 2019

By Fr John Sullivan, SJ

In my first years in the Jesuits, there were certain events or activities in which we wore clerics, the black shirt that priests wear.  We were always super excited to wear them.  They made us feel ‘special’ and elite.  In a word, a shirt gave us concrete identity.  In this week’s Gospel, Jesus is dealing with something similar.  The people in the synagogue hear what he says and are generally pleased.  St. Luke writes, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”  Their approval however, was short-lived.  Initially Jesus words, like when we wore the priest shirt, gave the people of Nazareth a concrete sense of identity.  He was speaking to them as the People of Israel, and as the people of his own home town.  Would they not have felt ‘special,’ elite?  But when Jesus continues, he reminds them that Elijah was sent to the widow in Sidon; and Elisha was sent to Naaman, the Syrian.  In these words Jesus is saying that God is for all.  There is no ‘special’ or elite; there is only the child of God.  And our being God’s child is the fundamental and primary source of our identity, of who we are.  As we receive more and more who we are in God’s eyes, then the living of our faith becomes clearer. 

As we pray for and seek to be disciples of the Lord, we may wonder how to do it.  St. Paul makes clear that the way of discipleship is the way of Christ.  And the way of Christ is the way of love.  In this week’s passage from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians he gives examples of what we might think would be the most perfect expression of being a Christians.  He says that if we can speak with the tongues of angels but do not have love, then we have nothing.  He says that if we have prophecy and all knowledge and even a faith to move mountains, but do not have love, then again we have nothing.  And even if we give our bodies over for martyrdom, but do not love, we have nothing.  And so, if all these things without love are nothing, then it seems that love is everything.  It is God’s love that gives us our identity.  It is God’s love that is the food for the living out of our faith.  It seems that a faith without love, following the teaching of St. Paul, would be nothing.  Therefore our faith and love can never be separated; because love is the greatest, it is everything.  

The people who heard Jesus speak in the synagogue wanted an identity based on being the elite, or part of the ‘in-group’.  Sometimes we can feel the same.  But we must always remember in our hearts that such a feeling or desire is a temptation because we turn the eyes of our faith away from the Lord and towards the opinions of others.  What is it then to be a disciple, what is it to be a Christian? It is to be a person of love, it is to be a person who loves.  “Now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”  

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