Deacon Cornellís Homily


Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Luke 4:21-30


January 27-28 Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

John Quincy Adams, the first son of a President of the United States to become president, reportedly said that he would rather clean filth from the streets than be President. Scripture tells us that most of the prophets shared John Quincy Adamís aversion to their calling. From Moses, who tried to convince God that he didnít speak well enough, to Jeremiah, who claimed he was too young, even to Jesus, who asked the Father to let this cup pass in the Garden of Gethsemane, prophets trembled at the trials ahead of them. And with good reason. Jeremiah was threatened with death several times, thrown into a cistern to die in the mud, imprisoned, dragged off to exile in Egypt against his will, and perhaps most painfully, watched the destruction of Jerusalem because its inhabitants would not listen to his message.

The Gospel story we heard today is another example of why prophets do not jump for joy at their career prospects. In the space of 5 verses, the people of Nazareth turn from being amazed at the gracious words coming from Jesusí mouth to dragging him off to the cliff to murder him. Letís face it; the Scriptures do not make a very appealing want ad for the job of prophet. Nor do the news reports we hear today. Speaking Godís truth by word or by deed is a risky business even today. 603 missionaries have been martyred since 1990. Hundreds of Christians have been killed in the past year in Indonesia, in the Philippines, in Sudan, and Egypt and around the world. In our country, the attack is not so much physical as it is psychological.

Most of the commentaries on this Gospel, and so most of the homilies you hear preached on it, invite us to put ourselves in the shoes of the people of Nazareth and reflect on whether we are rejecting Jesus in our midst today. That is certainly a worthwhile reflection. But I would like to look at todayís Gospel story with you from the point of view of the prophet. How many people here have been anointed as prophets? All of us who have been baptized have been anointed priest, prophet and king. So how many people here are just chomping at the bit to be a prophet? I can see we are continuing the scriptural tradition of prophets shrinking from their call!

And what is the job of a prophet? To speak Godís truth, Godís word. How can that get you into all the trouble prophets get into? Well, most of the time, the majority of the world does not want to hear Godís truth. The devil has done an excellent job at promoting lies, to the extent that most people believe the lie, and they believe that the lie is better for them. As the Cardinal pointed out in his homily down in Washington last Monday, it has been that way from the beginning, as represented by the Genesis story. Satan tells Adam and Eve that they will be better off if they eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Do you know why the people of Nazareth wanted to kill Jesus? Because he told them Godís truth, the truth that Godís plan was to save all peoples, even the people the Nazareneís considered their enemies, the truth that being Godís chosen people did not mean that God favored them to the exclusion of everyone else. Everyone that Jesus talked about as receiving Godís favor, Naaman the Syrian, the widow of Zarephath, belonged to people despised by the Nazarenes. The people in that synagogue believed the lie that they would be better off if God did not love their enemies.

So the first characteristic of a good prophet is to be able to see the lie. Donít think that this is easy. Satan is no amateur. He knows how to package lies so they seem reasonable, attractive, even sensible. How many of you have seen the latest ad on TV for pro-choice? Pretty slick. It seems so reasonable, so American. But it lies, overtly when it says the choice is a fundamental principle on which our country was founded. I went back and looked at the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution and choice is not there. It lies implicitly when it implies that abortion is about choice. It is about killing an unborn human being. That is not choice.

So you have to see the lie. Paul gives us a good measure to use to detect the lie. Is it based on self-seeking, convenience, then it is not love, it is a lie. And all the other attributes of love he gives us make it easy to spot the lie. Then you have to do something about countering it. To remain silent is to support the lie. It is hard to see the effect in just a small time but even looking at the effect of almost 30 years of saying that abortion is a choice rather than a killing has made it ďcommon senseĒ. The majority of the students in my daughterís class at Hudson Catholic HS think abortion should be allowed.

And it is not just abortion. Pope John Paul II released a statement this week in preparation for World Communications Day May 27 in which he said that it seems as if the media is the enemy of God's truth. He goes on to say we should not, then, fear the media but use it to spread God's truth as effectively as it spreads the lie.

It does seem as if it is the enemy at this point. Almost every popular TV show, movie, and music recording advocates promiscuous sex (e.g. Friends, Sex in the City, Amy McBeal) , homosexuality (Will and Grace), or violence and aggression (Eminem, The Sopranos). Just try to speak out against any of this and watch the attacks. You will be labeled a radical. You will be accused of imposing your religion on others. You will be told it is fun and harmless.

To be true to our calling as prophets we need to speak out, but more importantly to live out Godís truth. The shows you watch or the music you listen to speak volumes to those around you. Arre they speaking Godís truth? The conversations you have at work, at home, at school, speak volumes. Are they speaking Godís truth?

I pray we have the strength to be good prophets. Jesus said that the good news Isaiah proclaims of rest from labor, freedom from captivity, restored sight, and reclamation of what is ours is at hand. This promise of Godís is fulfilled in our hearing.It is fulfilled because God has sent his anointed to speak his truth, his word. With Jesus as our head, we are Godís anointed. The kingdom of God is at hand; but it is not yet fully here. So when we are sent forth at the end of Mass to love and server the Lord and each other, letís gird up our loins and go prophesy.

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