This is my homily for 31 January 2010. Feel free to respond with comments. To view the readings, go to http://www.usccb.org/nab and click “January 31” in the calendar.
References: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 | 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 | Luke 4:21-30
[__01.] “Faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The enduring nature of love – of charity – is what Paul is communicating. We remember those who love us; and, we love those who remember us.
Love, however, is not meant to be only a memory of the past but a motivation for the present. As John Lennon and Paul McCartney summarized it, “all you need is love.”
The greatest of these three is love. Right now, in the present.
[__02.] It is appropriate to remember that love – and charity – that love does not exist as an object to be acquired. We might love objects or– or even money. (And, there is something else in the Bible about this).
We know that objects and money do not love you in return. Love exists only within relationships.
Love does not exist out there in the abstract or any shelf or warehouse. Love exists here in our hearts. God is love, first of all.
God made you and me; thus, you were made in love.
[__03.] This is what the anxious prophet Jeremiah is told in the reading from the Book of Jeremiah. Love means relationship and knowledge. The Lord speaks to Jeremiah:
“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.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Then, Jeremiah protests this appointment, this assignment, knowing his own inexperience and youth.
Jeremiah responds: "Ah, Lord God! I know not how to speak; I am too young." (Jeremiah 1:6)
But the Lord answers Jeremiah saying, “Say not, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:7-8)
[__04.] The Lord encourages Jeremiah to go out into the world – now - because he knows him and loves him. This is what mothers and fathers do for their children. What you are doing for your children. What teachers do for students.
You say, “I know the world is dangerous, complicated. But I love you and I encourage you.” Such a loving relationship reminds us that someone is on our side. The Lord is also on our side. This is love.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7) Love believes in you.
[__05.] Love brings us into relationships of marriage, family, friendship, at work, at home. These relationships are, at times, complicated.
We don’t always have everyone on our side. Sometimes, it seems we have no one on our side. We don’t always get what we want. We’d rather have a filibuster proof majority.
We wonder why. I thought love was patient, kind. Why don’t I get my way?
[__06.] In the Gospel, we witness Jesus attempting to go home again.
And, Jesus is not going to get his way either. Maybe, you can’t go home again.
This famous phrase comes from the title of the novel by Thomas Wolfe “You can’t go home again”. And, as one reviewer commented, this phrase is now part of our language and viewpoint.
“ ‘You can’t go home again’ has entered American speech to mean that after you have left your country town or provincial backwater city for a sophisticated metropolis, you can’t return to the narrow confines of your previous way of life …. the phrase is sometimes spoken to mean that you can’t return to your place of origin without being deemed a failure. In this regard, the phrase is used as a self-admonition or warning. You can’t go home again ambitious Americans tell themselves. They say it as a warning to stick it out, to not dare go home and subject themselves to the prospect of being a failure in the eyes of their family and the friends of their youth. ”(Susan Matt, Journal of American History, September 2007)
Or, as the Gospel reads, “No prophet is accepted in his own country.” (Luke 4:24)
This is the experience (or frustration) of, for example, the young person who comes home from college. It is the experience of adults everywhere who may go to visit their families. We may be frustrated – even in the good we do – when we cross the street or cross the country to visit our families.
These attempts to “look homeward, angel” and to “go home again” are often experiences of friction. We may feel rejected, at times, among the very people whom we thought would understand us.
When this happens, remember you are in Christ’s company who was also rejected in his own country. This is not mean to discourage you from visiting Nazareth or River Edge or Mom’s or Dad’s house. It only means that these returns home are all part of a lifetime of returning home, of caring for our families, until we are all returning home to God in eternal life.
Until then, be patient, be kind. Love never fails. [_end_]