Fun Fact – The Divided Kingdom:
Today’s fun fact is a actually a quick lesson. One of the most important OT events involves the division of The Davidic Kingdom. If you are familiar with this event, reading the bible becomes far more exciting! In the simplest possible terms, here it is:
- ~200 years after the Exodus, there was a period of relative peace. The 12 tribes of Israel were united (One Holy Nation). They asked for a King. God obliged (reluctantly).
- Israel’s first 3 kings were Saul, David, & Solomon (think “S-D-S” to remember the order). Under a King’s leadership, they became One Holy Kingdom. This kingdom wasn’t united for long.
- When King Solomon died, his 2 sons (Reheboam and Jereboam) couldn’t agree on who should be king of Israel. The 2 sons divided the kingdom. A bad, bad decision.
- 10 tribes went North and became “Israel.” Assyria conquered them later.
- 2 tribes went South and became “Judah.” Babylon conquered and exiled them later.
When the kingdom divided, God’s voice on Earth was needed. He sent prophets to 1) reunite the people 2) encourage them to return to God, and 3) warn them about destruction from enemy armies (Assyrians and Babylonians).
When we hear “A Reading from the Book of the Prophet __”, we can answer the question, “Where in the bible are we?” As we keep learning, we’ll better understand the prophet’s message and audience. Some speak to the North, some to the South, and occasionally they speak to the reigning kings of that time. Where does Jeremiah fit? Let’s find out.
1st Reading: JEREMIAH 1:4-5, 17-19
Jeremiah prophesied before Babylon conquered Judah (the South) in 586. He’s there to warn them. Often referred to by scholars as “the weeping prophet” Jeremiah weeps for his people who are far from God. We’re hearing God’s prophetic calls this January. God calls Jeremiah this week, and next week, we hear God call Isaiah. Perhaps, as we start the new liturgical year and approach Lent, this is the Church’s way of “calling” us, too. (We are after all, baptized priest, prophet and king.)
When God calls Jeremiah to be His prophet, we hear, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jer 1:5). That verse is enough to ponder and pray on this week. We are each infinitely precious to God, and infinitely important. Interestingly, when God calls Jeremiah we hear echoes of God’s call to Moses:
– Ex 4:12: “Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
– Jer 1:7 “Whatever I command you you shall speak. Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” In sum, Jeremiah has a very hard job ahead of him (“gird up your loins”). He will take on the unpopular role of whistle-blower – he has to tell God’s people that due to their unfaithfulness, Judgement is coming. God assures him “They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.”
God says the same to us today – no matter your current struggle, God will deliver you.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM 71
“I will Sing of Your Salvation”
This is a Psalm of David. To be sure, it sounds like something Jeremiah would have said in reply to God (especially with the reference to birth). It’s also something we can sing to God when we are in a difficult situation: “For you are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.”This song of hope continues, so listen closely to your Sunday psalmist!
A beautiful description I found online: “This is the prayer of the Aged Believer, who, in holy confidence of faith, strengthened by a long and remarkable experience, pleads against his enemies, and asks further blessings for himself. Anticipating a gracious reply, he promises to magnify the Lord exceedingly.”
2nd READING: 1 Cor 12:31, 13:1-13
This is a common “wedding reading,” but I challenge us to look at it in a new light today. Remember – Corinth was “The Big Apple” of the time, a place bustling with commerce and social and intellectual growth. Believers there had started to return to old ways. The Church was fracturing. The people were engaging in immoral behavior and had become careless in their treatment of the Eucharist. In sum, they were acting very selfish. The reading aims to unravel their selfishness by talking on Love. Today’s reading is the centerpiece of Paul’s teaching on spiritual gifts.
Last week’s reading comes immediately prior to the start of today’s. It begins, “And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but have not love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.” The point throughout is, without authentic love, our actions are loud, pointless, and noisy. Actions are not wholly pleasing to God unless LOVE is at the heart of them. We know God = Love. SO, read another way, actions are not wholly pleasing to God unless HE is at the heart of them.
“These three remain, Faith, Hope, and Love.” I heard an interesting reflection on this. In Heaven, Faith and Hope don’t really exist as on Earth. In Heaven we will be in the presence of God our Father. As such, Faith and Hope are realized by our being there. But Love? It remains, because God IS Love. And in Heaven, we abide with Love and praise God without ceasing.
GOSPEL – Luke 4:21-30
Each gospel writer starts his gospel with a different event to begin Jesus’ public ministry. Matthew, the “teaching gospel,” starts with The Sermon on the Mount. In Mark, it’s Jesus casting out a demon (a key Markan theme is “the spiritual battle”). John begins with the wedding at Cana. In Luke, today’s gospel reading is the start of His public ministry. Jesus preaches in the synagogue and is not welcome in his own native place.
Jesus uses two significant OT prophets, Elisha and Elijah, to make this point: OT Prophets didn’t just heal God’s people (the Israelites), prophets also went to the outsiders and the forgotten – even to enemies – to heal them and bring them into the fold.
– Elijah went to a widow (an outsider) and healed her.
– Elisha went to Naaman the Syrian and performed healing works.
In other words, God’s love and grace is for all of His children. He wants to bring every stray child back into His fold. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”
Throughout the gospels, we often see Christ evade death. This is so he can fulfill his purpose and go to the Cross. People in the synagogue try to stone him and throw him over a cliff, but He “passed through the midst of them and went away.” Imagining some cool special effects, I picture Him fading away in the distance. Efforts to hurt Him completely fail. He just walks away. A miraculous move indeed. If only, when faced with “buffets and spitting”, could do the same. With God’s strength and His voice in our mouths, we can. “Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”