The greatest is love

January 30, 2022

Like Isaiah before him, Jeremiah spoke truth to power and incurred the wrath of those whose infidelity he condemned. In today’s first reading, Jeremiah tells us why he does not fear the opposition he’s fomented. The Lord has assured him that he will be protected, that “they will fight against you but not prevail over you” (Jeremiah 1:19). This assurance sustains him through periods of doubt and despair. Unlike every other prophet, Jeremiah confesses his inner struggle with his prophetic calling in his writing. He reveals his anger at God for choosing him. Yet, he relentlessly returns to living out his call to speak forthrightly, whether to ordinary people or to kings and princes. Saint Paul notes that of the three primary virtues of faith, hope, and love, the greatest is love. Love is also the most long-lasting. When we die and find ourselves in the presence of God, neither faith nor hope will be necessary. Love alone will retain. That love, seeing distinctly, seeing fully, will find a purity rarely glimpsed in this world. From that vantage point, we will see, with mercy, the limitations of our love in this world. Isaiah, Elijah, and Elisha. Quoting or referencing these three luminaries, as Jesus does today, should be a ticket to acceptance, one would think. But when Elijah told the king that the Lord would bring three years of droughts, then left to save the life of a foreigner, he didn’t exactly endear himself to the starving Israelites. When Elisha cured the foreign general—not his own people—then brought that disease upon his own scheming servant, it could have easily provoked resentment. When Isaiah called for glad tiding to the poor and lowly, and freedom to the oppressed and imprisoned, how must those in power have felt? The people of Nazareth expected a  Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and bring them freedom and glad tidings. Why is he talking about helping foreigners instead? Luke consistently emphasizes that Jesus was sent to outsiders and was sent to show mercy. Jesus’ own people failed to appreciate this. Amen. (Casey, Most Reverend Robert G. Pastoral Patterns. World Library Publication, 2021).

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