Blog # 450 Love
As the Biblical source of this blog I am using Jer. 1: 4-5, 1 Cor. 12: 31-13: 13, and Luke 4: 21-30.
In the first and third passages we find Jeremiah and Jesus in similar situations. Both are at the beginning of their public ministry as prophets of the Lord. Both have been sent with a message for the world around them. Neither of them show any hesitation or lack of confidence in the content of the message they bring. They give themselves generously to the task at hand.
In preaching their message both Jeremiah and Jesus run into difficulty. The people are challenged to change, to grow, to look after the welfare of others as if it were their own, to discover what it means and how much it can cost to love someone. They see this as a difficult path to follow. They do not like what they hear. Both prophets are presented as being in trouble. Their confidence as prophets was being challenged and in the case of each of them being proved.
In our passage from Jeremiah we hear the Lord verifying his call to Jeremiah given before the prophet was born. "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." The difficulties and rejection are also seen.
"...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..." The final vindication of the prophet is also assured by the Lord. " They will fight against you but will not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord."
We see three stages in the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah: 1. his call and dedication by the Lord, 2. struggle and rejection, and 3. victory and vindication. Three like stages can be recognized in the prophetic ministry of Jesus.
Jesus is in the synagogue at Nazareth. He has read from the prophet Isaiah. "The Sprit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me...He has sent me...".Jesus says of the passage "Today this passage is fulfilled in your hearing." The first response of the people was one of affirmation and approval. But soon Jesus challenged them to greater holiness. He points out to them how God was more close and pleased with a widow in Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian leper (both not members of the Mosaic community of faith) than He was with the Israelites who were Israelites in name rather them in their hearts.
The struggle heats up. The people drive Jesus out of town, and lead him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built with the intention of casting him over the cliff to his death. Luke indicates the third stage of Jesus' prophetic ministry, his victory and vindication, in the simple words "Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away."
It is easy to see the three stages of ministry (call, struggle, and vindication) in the lives of Jeremiah and Jesus. They also can be discovered in he lives of great Saints in the Church and in the lives of everyone who believes in God and follows God's plan. That includes you and me.
For those of us who were Baptized as infants the process began at that point. The moment of our Baptism represents our official call by God to a prophetic ministry in Jesus. lt is similar to the call of Jeremiah before he was born. For those who came to a conscious free act of faith at a later stage of life that moment represents the initial call.
Than follows the struggle, more intense at some times than others. We are challenged and tempted away from faithfulness to our call. Many of us know the relief and joy it is to taste the pleasure of victory over temptation, or the blessing of coming back to prayer when we have neglected it for a time. These moments and occasions of call struggle and victory occur throughout our lives. Some are brief and small. Some are large and extend over a long period of time. They should not be considered accidental. Rather they can be seen as a share in the victory of Jesus over evil given him by the Father as a reward for his faithfulness to his call now lived out in faithfulness by us.
When asked on one occasion what was the greatest of all the commandments Jesus answered without hesitation we must love God above all else and then as a bonus he gave the second commandment as our love for one another. Love would be the key to understanding and releasing the meaning and power of His message. I found myself wondering why the people who rejected Jeremiah and Jesus acted the way they did when the message of both prophets was one of love. I
found my answer in 1 Cor. 12 31-13: 13.
This passage is very familiar to us all. It is often chosen by couples as one of the Scripture readings at their marriage ceremony. On those occasions it is seen as a beautiful and fitting expression of the core and foundation of the relationship the couple entering married life wish to have. And it is certainly that. But when I read it over again in preparation for writing this blog I saw it in a different light.
The vision of love 1 Cor. gives was just as beautiful and attractive as ever, and perhaps more so. Its beauty and attractiveness was what made me wonder at the attitude of the people who expelled Jesus from the synagogue. His whole message was one of love. He summed up all of God's commands to us in love. How could anyone reject him for that? I went to Cor. again and the answer began to become clear.
What we read in the letter to the Corinthians is what the people heard in the synagogue at Nazareth. "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 over the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, Love never fails." Whatever else you have, if you do not have love, you have nothing of real value.
There is a price to be paid for love, and I imagine that is where the difficulty came for the people in accepting the message of Jesus. Love has to do with more than just good feelings toward another or an attractiveness to another's personality or physique. These can be part of an experience of love, but they alone are not enough to define and sustain the love Jesus preached as the heart of our relationships with God and one another.
To have genuine love we must have patience, kindness, a willingness to identify the needs of others as our own, and generous self-giving. These constitute the challenge of love. Somehow at times we would rather have it another way. When someone comes along telling us in the name of
God we are not doing it rightly we wish he were someplace else, and if enough people in the synagogue feel that way we throw him out.l
But love never fails, which means it never gives up, it never stops. Jesus will be back, and he will say it again. Because to love means to give, he will say very clearly there is no greater love than to lay down your life for someone. To lay down your life is to give all that you have. Jesus will illustrate that perfect love on Calvary. He loves the Father and us that much! Thank You Jesus!