The Scriptures this weekend give us a great mixture of our own destiny as ones who have been molded and formed in the womb by God, a teaching about the importance of our relationship with Jesus and our openness to Him in our lives. We also hear a familiar writing about the virtues that describe what love really is.
The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that any courage and strength that we have to live faithfully comes from the inheritance given to us from the inception of our lives. Molded and formed by God in the womb, created in the image and likeness of God, we are asked to stand tall in the world as His witnesses and disciples. We know that we will encounter suffering just like Jesus did. We know that we are also faced with an abundance of blessings and are called to witness in our use of those, too. If you think about your early formation as a Christian, can you give thanks and praise to God for those who taught you all about Jesus and how to live a life in faithfulness to Him? Can you reflect back on your struggles, whether within yourself or in relationships with others, and see how you have had strength beyond your imagination and courage? From the beginning of our lives, we have been set in a certain direction, and our hearts are hungry and thirsty when we veer from the path. Can you reclaim any part of your inheritance that you have given away to other values or other idols and give that portion of your life back to the service of Jesus?
We have a saying that familiarity breeds contempt. The Gospel this weekend gives us an example from the life of Jesus that personifies that saying. People have become so familiar with Jesus and His upbringing that they have learned to expect very little from Him. When given the chance to experience His giftedness, they instead choose to believe their prejudice rather than what they see and hear. Although we make attempts to purify ourselves from any hatred or prejudice, it remains in all of us and blocks us from seeing the gifts in front of us if we’re not careful. When Jesus mentions that God was able to help those who were considered impure and unholy over the so-called chosen ones because of their close-mindedness, they become indignant and are willing to kill Him. Eventually, some people succeed in bringing about His death. What might any of us be willing to do to notice how our close-mindedness keeps us from experiencing the power of Jesus through the unexpected other?
To bring about that purification we all need, we are given a description of love that is easy to measure. We are reminded that we can do marvelous deeds in the world, but if they are not done with love, they are hypocritical and destructive. St. Paul gives us some virtues to use as measuring points for loving. He uses the words patient, kind, not jealous, not quick-tempered, not pompous, not inflated and not rude. I don’t know about you, but trying to live up to that description of love will keep me busy for the rest of my life. St. Paul reminds us that it is time for us to grow up and act like the loving people we profess to be. It is time for us to quit rejoicing over other people’s failures and to start rejoicing in the truth — God’s truth, not our opinions.
May you and I be blessed in this coming week so that the journey we take might be one of love and that we might become a brilliant example of the love of Jesus so many of us are hungry to see and experience.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.