FIRST READING                 Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19

The word of the Lord came to me, saying:  Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.  But do you gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you.  Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land:  against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people.  They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.

SECOND READING                        1 Corinthians 12:31—13:13

Brothers and sisters:  Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.  But I shall show you a still more excellent way.  If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.  If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.  So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

GOSPEL                     Luke 4:21-30

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:  “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.  They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”  He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”  And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.  Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land.  It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.  Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”  When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.  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.

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The readings today show us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy of Jeremiah.  The great prophets of the Old Testament were able to foresee although probably without complete clarity.  It is as if today we were to prophecy that in the future there will be peace if people return to God.  That is a prophecy that any of us could make.  The Old Testament prophets were so convinced of God’s involvement in the world that they had complete confidence that God will win in the end and that people will return to Him.  We need to look at our faith in this regard.  Do we really trust that God is acting in our world?  Do we really believe that God is more powerful than all of the negative and even evil forces that now seem to work in our world?  Jeremiah invites us to trust more deeply:  for him, a Savior will come.  For us, a Savior has come.

The Gospel continues the story of the beginning of the public ministry of our Lord Jesus.  The reading last Sunday was the Baptism of the Lord, now we take up His life after the Baptism.  Jesus begins to perform miracles but He also is a man who speaks the truth.  Clearly Jesus has not done miracles in Nazareth and the people want to know why.  When He tells them the truth—that they do not believe in Him—then they become enraged and try to kill Him.  This is probably not the best beginning for a public ministry but this same pattern will continue until Jesus is actually killed.

Jesus does the works that the prophets foretold.  By doing those works, He eventually angers more and more people or causes them to stop believing because they cannot believe all that He says.  We can look ahead to his triumphal entry in Jerusalem, when so many of His followers believed Him.  And yet shortly after that, when He is condemned and dies, almost all abandon any belief.

The Cross of our Lord.  This is a stumbling block and causes all kinds of problems for people who might want to believe.  The freedom of Jesus causes others to stop believing.  Those who want to keep everything under control and not let anything unusual happen cannot believe.  And you?  And me?  Can we believe?  Do we believe?  Are we ready to follow our Lord and die with Him?

The First Letter to the Corinthians gives us the path on which to walk today:  Love God and love all other people.  Serve God and serve others.  This letter gives us clear advice of what love means—and it does not sound like the love we hear about in our present cultures.  This is a love that always seeks the good of the other—not my good nor my happy feelings.  Sisters and brothers, let us love the Lord and one another.  Faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip