A Reflection on the Readings for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 30, 2022
Reading I: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19
Responsorial Psalm: 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 or 13:4-13
Gospel: Luke 4:21-30
How many times have you seen a movie or TV show where the main character moves to the big city to make a new start for themselves? The character usually does not know a soul in the new city, and at the beginning of their journey, that is exactly what they want. Not only do they not know anyone, but even better, no one knows them. The character sees this as an opportunity to start over with a blank slate, and the easiest way to do that was to go where no one knew them, their family or history. Perhaps it was an opportunity to have people look at them differently, or maybe the character could look at themselves differently.
The Gospel reading for today shows Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth, reading Isaiah in the synagogue, and revealing to the citizens of Nazareth that He is fulfilling this prophecy before their very own eyes. At first, the people are amazed and “spoke well of him.” Luke 4:22. Then they say, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Id. Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking – that they would ask him to prove himself to them and to perform the miracles there, just as he had done in other places. I think the Lord knew it would be futile to do more there. He tells them that “no prophet is acceptable in his own country.” Luke 4:24. And then, he tells them about other prophets who were not sent to heal those in their hometown, but elsewhere.
I have thought about this many times over the years – why a prophet is not accepted in his own country. I think it is because they know him, or rather, think they know him. They have a distinct idea of who he is, which can be difficult to shake. In this passage of Luke, the people are first amazed, but then realize…wait – we know this guy – he’s just the son of Joseph. We know him. And they cannot believe Jesus is the Messiah, the one they have been waiting for, because they believed that they knew who he was – just the son of Joseph – and that was the only person he would ever be to them.
Have you ever tried to change someone’s mind about who they think you are? It can take either a long time or a significant event. How many times have you read an article or watched a documentary about a murderer or criminal who committed an act that seemed totally out of character, at least to the person who supposedly “knew” them? The phrase, “You think you know a man” comes immediately to mind.
Yet, in the first reading, God tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…” Jeremiah 1:5. What does it mean for you and me to know each other? I can know your name, who you are related to, what year you were born, and the city you grew up in. I can also know your likes and dislikes. And in going deeper into your struggles, traumas, vices, strengths and talents. But these are all formed mostly by what you tell me, and what others tell me. And I can know myself to a degree (although I’m sometimes puzzled by why I do certain things!).
Yet God knows us better than anyone else possibly could. Unlike the way we know each other, He does not need us to tell Him who we are for Him to know us. God knew us before He created us with such care and love. And the truest version of ourselves, who we really are (instead of who we think we are or how others see us), is found in who we are to Him and how He sees us – His beloved daughters and sons. By seeking out that version of ourselves, finding who we truly are, and trying to be that person, we are becoming who He created us to be – our most joyful, giving, resilient, hope-filled, faithful, and unique selves.
I think it is such a relief to know that He is the one who knows us best, and there is no need to torture ourselves with only thinking about how others know us. Frankly, I’m particularly looking forward to asking Him in the end why he created me to take such joy in something as simple as a gel pen. And why he picked me to have curly hair. I’d love to have a long chat about that one.
Author: Katy Mauer-Cabrera