Homily for the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B.
The Opening Prayer from Mass this weekend asks: “Grant us, Lord our God, that we may honor you with all our mind, and love everyone in truth of heart.” We are called to give our adherence to God, to God’s call, in the person of Jesus, God’s spoken WORD.
We are to do so freely, without coercion.
Christ respects our freedom, the freedom God gives each person to give adherence to His Word, to believe in the Word of God & His Truth. Our response to God in faith is to be free.
St. Paul is calling the Corinthians to both respond in faith to God’s Word, and to do so freely, without any distraction or coercion.
We are called to embrace our Christian faith freely, and to give practical expression to our faith in every aspect of our daily life. Indeed, this is a resounding theme and a regular call of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, which he preaches with greater and greater urgency. Just this week, in an address to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, our Holy Father stated:
“As we know, in vast regions of the world today, the faith runs the risk of being extinguished, as a flame going out due to the lack of fuel. We stand today before a profound crisis of faith and a loss of religious sensibility. Therefore, the renewal of the faith must be the greatest priority of the Church of our times.” Our Holy Father challenges all Christians to a renewed commitment “to bringing God back into this world and to opening to all men access to the faith”. The Holy Father reminds us that “our God loved us to the end (John 13:1) in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen”.
In the Gospel today, we once again see Jesus in the role of Teacher. What is this “teaching of Jesus” we hear about in the Gospel today if not the Truth? Is this not a big part of our faith, to respond to this Truth, this teaching of Jesus? Indeed, the Truth that is Jesus? In the Declaration on Religious Liberty, the Second Vatican Council teaches:
It is in accordance with their dignity that all men [and women], because they are persons, that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore bearing personal responsibility, are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth. (#2)
The same document states further:
…the highest norm of human life is the divine law itself – eternal, objective and universal, by which God orders, directs and governs the whole world and the ways of the human community according to a plan conceived in his wisdom and love. God has enabled man [and woman]to participate in this law of his so that, under the gentle disposition of divine providence, many may be able to arrive at a deeper and deeper knowledge of unchangeable truth. (#3)
As we grow in faith, through meditation upon God’s Word, we are better able to discern the presence, action, and guidance of the same God at work in our day-to-day life. At the same time, we are better equipped to discern the presence of the Truth, Jesus Christ, also leading and guiding, calling us to greater and greater discipleship.
It seems this is what the great Apostle, St. Paul is encouraging in the second reading today from the First Letter to the Corinthians (7:32-35). He recognizes how easy it is for the lay person to get caught up in their daily relationships and obligations, to the detriment of our common vocation to seek and serve God’s Kingdom in all things. We all know the anxieties and concerns that are a part of our daily life, but are we equally aware of our Christian calling to seek and serve the Lord in the same realms? St. Paul, as the Lord Himself, wants us to “be free from all anxieties…and adhere to the Lord without distraction”.
In a similar vein, in the Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People from the Second Vatican Council, we read:
This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is maintained by the spiritual helps common to all the faithful, chiefly by active participation in the liturgy. Laymen [and lay women] should make such a use of these helps that , while meeting their human obligations in the ordinary conditions of life, they do not separate their union with Christ from their ordinary life; but through the very performance of their tasks, which are God’s will for them, actually promote the growth of their union with him. This is the path along which laymen [and lay women] must advance, fervently, joyfully, overcoming difficulties with prudent patient efforts. (#4)
This is indeed what the New Evangelization is all about; bringing our faith in Jesus Christ into every relationship, every aspect of our lives. This is indeed what one of the new formulas for the rite of dismissal at the end of Mass says: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
And yet, we also know the very real moments in our life when we allow our hearts to be hardened to Christ and His Word. Thus, we need to hear over and over again the words of the Psalmist: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” (Psalm 95) We must pray for the wisdom and grace of the Holy Spirit to recognize the patterns in our life that close our hearts to Christ and the power of His Word. We must make time to actually hear God’s Word, in silence, prayer, reading Sacred Scripture, celebrating the Sacraments, spending time with family and good friends, using our free time wisely and well. If all we hear is the message of the world around us, we will be anxious and unfulfilled.
One other significant area to pay attention is that of forgiveness and reconciliation. If we are not willing and able to forgive those who hurt us, our hearts are not open to receive God’s Word or His Love. In other words, we have allowed our hearts to become hardened. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in this regard:
Now – and this is daunting – this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see. (1 John 4:20) In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace. (CCC #2840)
So, my friends, let us hear God’s Word this week. Let us respond freely in faith. Let us open our hearts to the love of God through lives of active faith, service, reconciliation and love. After we receive Christ into the depths of our hearts, let us bring Him into our every relationship, and every aspect of our day. May we do so in peace and tranquility, bringing that Peace of Christ into the world, for the building up of His Kingdom.