4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C – January 30, 2022
EVANGELIZING WITH LOVE
From the time we started the season of Ordinary Time, the Gospel Readings are opening our hearts and minds to LISTEN, ACT and EVANGELIZE. I believe these three elements are very important for evangelization and if the Gospel of Love is added to it, it becomes extraordinary chrism of our Christian Faith. Today’s Readings are emplacing on the element of evangelization without any fear and doubt because God the Father Almighty is there who has called us and has promised to stand for us in times of trials and trouble. I don’t know if all of you have read the message, I wrote for our Parish Photo Directory. Here is the message to refresh your memory because we all called to be missionaries to evangelize. “There is no institute, community, school or society in the world where there are no volunteers. In every walk of life, we need volunteers to run the programmes and help people. However, in the Church, volunteers are playing vital role in different ministries to glorify the Lord. St. Paul reminds us with these great words “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. (Colossians 3:17) Pope Benedict XVI says that Christian volunteer efforts should not merely be “an expression of good will” but should be “based on a personal experience of Christ.” He added that “He was the first to serve humanity, he freely gave his life for the good of all. That gift was not based on our merits. From this we learn that God gives us himself. More than that: Deus Caritas est – God is love,”. St. Therese of Lisieux reminds Christians that “nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.” Pope Francis speaking to volunteers said ” ‘Good’ is accomplished and is effective especially when it is done without seeking recompense and visibility, in the concrete situations of daily life.” “I ask you to build the future. Make the world a better place. Please don’t see life from afar. Live it. Jesus didn’t stay out in a balcony. Instead, He got involved. Follow Jesus’ example.” St. Paul encourages everyone with these amazing words “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us”.
I love the passage from a Letter by St. Ignatius of Antioch as he is being led to his martyrdom. He mentions that we all are called by Jesus with great love and compassion. And St. John rightly quotes the words of Jesus “it is not you who chose me but I have chosen you and called you to be my witnesses to the end of age”. “From Ignatius, known as Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, his beloved, at Smyrna in Asia, wishing you all joy in an immaculate spirit and the Word of God. By his mercy you have won every gift and lack none, filled as you are with faith and love, beloved of God and fruitful in sanctity.
I celebrate the glory of Jesus Christ as God, because he is responsible for your wisdom, aware as I am of the perfection of your unshakeable faith. You are like men who have been nailed body and soul to the cross of Jesus Christ, confirmed in love by his blood”.
He continues to say “In regard to the Lord, you firmly believe that he was of the race of David according to the flesh, but God’s son by the will and power of God; truly born of the Virgin and baptized by John, that all justice might be fulfilled; truly nailed to a cross in the flesh for our sake under Pontius Pilate and the Tetrarch Herod, and of his most blessed passion we are the fruit. And thus, by his resurrection he raised up a standard over his saints and faithful ones for all time (both Jews and Gentiles alike) in the one body of his Church. For he endured all this for us, for our salvation; and he really suffered, and just as truly rose from the dead.
As for myself, I am convinced that he was united with his body even after the resurrection. When he visited Peter and his companions, he said to them: Take hold of me, touch me and see that I am not a spirit without a body. Immediately they touched him and believed, clutching at his body and his very spirit. And for this reason, they despised death and conquered it. In addition, after his resurrection, the Lord ate and drank with them like a real human being, even though in spirit he was united with his Father. And so, I am giving you serious instruction on these things, dearly beloved, even though I am aware that you believe them to be so”.
Let me share a story with you which will help us to understand the value of evangelization and how we must act with love.
A member of the church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone then he sat back in his chair, still silent.
The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead. Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The pastor glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, ‘Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the firey sermon. I will be back in church next Sunday.’
The First Reading is about the calling of Prophet Jeremiah from his mother’s womb which reminds how precious the gift of life is from the conception to death. There are four very important lesson for us to learn. First God knows us even before we are born (read Psalm 139 please) and he calls us by our names just as Jesus called his disciples by their names. What does it mean? It means that all of us are important with unique personalities and God has blessed us with various talents and gifts (Read 1 Corinthians 12 please). Secondly, we must always be ready for action “Therefore, gird up your loins; stand up and tell the people everything that I command you”. Our Christian life is not meant to stand and stay in our place but a missionary life which invites us to witness and glorify his name. Thirdly we must not lose heart but must be strong “Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them”. The whole Bible is full of encouragement and hope. The phrase “do not be afraid” has appeared 365 times in the Bible which means everyday we must remember not to be afraid. God is our shield and rock of refuge which is the fourth lesion we can learn “And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land…they will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you”. Isn’t amazing to see that God who is calling us to be evangelizers, is protecting us.
I strongly believe that no service or evangelization is possible without love. If the evangelization is done with love, will bear everlasting fruits. St. Paul in the Second Reading is sharing the extraordinary qualities of Love and without love everything is incomplete and meaningless. Someone wrote a very short essay on the “job of Christian disciples” to remind everyone to remember that God is always there for us even at times when we feel He is not there, as follows”
- If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?
- Fear knocked. Faith answered. No one was there.
- What you are is God’s gift to you.
- What you become is your gift to God.
- I am God’s melody of life, and He sings His song through me.
- We can never really go where God is not, and where He is, all is well.
- No matter what is happening in your life, know that God is waiting for you with open arms.
- God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.
- Do your best and then sleep in peace. God is awake.
- God has a purpose and plan for me that no one else can fulfill.
- The will of God will never take you to where the grace of God will not protect you.
- We are responsible for the effort, not the outcome.
- We set the sail; God makes the wind.
- Begin to weave and God will give you the thread.
- Sometimes when God says “no”, it’s because He has something better in store for you.
- The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us.
- Prayer: don’t bother to give God instructions, just report for duty.
- It’s my business to do God’s business and it’s His business to take care of my business.
- Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.
- How come you’re always running around looking for God? He’s not lost.
- God put me on earth to accomplish a number of things; right now, I’m so far behind I will live forever.
- “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
The gift of love illumines our efforts of evangelizing other people as St. Mother Teresa says, “do small things with great love”. Here is a story taken from the book of Max Lucado which highlights the element of listening, acting, and helping one another to the share the light of love.
There was a blackout one night. When the lights went out, I fumbled to the closet where we keep the candles for nights like this. I lit four of them. I was turning to leave with the large candle in my hand when I heard a voice, “Now, hold it right there.” “Who said that?” “I did.” The voice was near my hand. “Who are you? What are you?” “I’m a candle.” I lifted the candle to take a closer look. There was a tiny face in the wax. “Don’t take me out of here!” “What?” “I said, don’t take me out of this room.” “What do you mean? I must take you out. You’re a candle. Your job is to give light. It’s dark out there.” “But you can’t take me out. I’m not ready,” the candle explained with pleading eyes. “I need more preparation.” I couldn’t believe my ears. “More preparation?” “Yeah, I’ve decided I need to research this job of light-giving, so I won’t go out and make a bunch of mistakes. You’d be surprised how distorted the glow of an untrained candle can be.” “All right then,” I said. “You’re not the only candle on the shelf. I’ll blow you out and take the others!” But right then I heard other voices, “We aren’t going either!” I turned to the other candles, “You are candles, and your job is to light dark places!” “Well, that may be what you think,” said the first one. “You may think we have to go, but I’m busy–I’m meditating on the importance of light. It’s really enlightening.” “And you other two,” I asked, “are you going to stay too?” A short, fat, purple candle with plump cheeks spoke up. “I’m waiting to get my life together, I’m not stable enough.”
The last candle had a female voice, very pleasant to the ear. “I’d like to help, “she explained, “but lighting the darkness is not my gift–I’m a singer. I sing to other candles to encourage them to burn more brightly.” She began a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.” The other three joined in filling the closet with singing. I took a step back and considered the absurdity of it all. Four perfectly healthy candles singing to each other about light but refusing to come out of the closet.
Here is a question for you — When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone? This world is full of darkness, with many people stumbling around trying to find their way. As we could see in the Gospel today. Our Lord is back to his hometown of Nazareth and has gone to the synagogue as it was his custom. He opens his mission statement which is full of love, compassion, and mercy as he reads from the scroll of Prophet Isaiah. People are attentive and their eyes are fixed on him but slowly we can see the darkness of their unbelief, stubbornness and doubts are increasing. Rather than accepting Jesus, they are trying to dig into his family’s life. They are ignoring the love of Jesus behind his mission because their eyes were closed to recognize Jesus, that he is the Messiah. They are angry and refusing to accept what the Lord is trying to bring to them. Is it easy to evangelize? Our Lord during his life on earth suffered a lot, but his love never died for his people.
As we come together to reflect on the Word of the Lord, let us ask the Lord to be with us and strengthen us so that we may continue to evangelize other people with Love. Let’s do whatever the Lord is telling us to do, be his witnesses in the world.
Other Sermons In This Series
December 23, 2021
November 14, 0201
April 29, 2022