•Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 • 1 Corinthians 12:31—13:13 • Luke 4:21-30•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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In 1961 an ecumenical community of monks was formed in the small village of Taize, France. Their brief book of rules concludes with these simple words which they never explained: “Never Fear To Precede the Dawn.” Since we all encounter darkness in various ways, I understand those words to mean: “never allow darkness deter you from doing the good you can do.”
Luke tells us that after his experiences at the Jordan River and in the desert, “Jesus returned to Galilee.” He was different inside. The purpose of his life now is unfolding before him and from then on he “never feared to precede the dawn.”
He had not shed his history, his appearance or his family of origin. His family and friends welcomed him with admiration. But he was different inside. He was convinced things did not have to be the way they are. He had a vision of “a new reality” which he called “the kingdom of God.” He knew a different path is available to those willing to wake up.
There in the synagogue of Nazareth Jesus sounded like a prophet. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” “Today!” Luke is telling us that in the words and deeds of Jesus the book of Isaiah is now fulfilled and with it all of Scripture. “Today” — here and now God is fulfilling the ancient promises.
Then the story goes on. His friends take offense at Jesus. All Jews prayed for the future of hope promised in the scriptures, but not so concretely. Certainly not from one of their peers from Nazareth. They prefer to delay “the reign of God” off into the future. It can’t be “today.” That would mean our lives have to change “today!’ and no one is willing to do that!
What happened in the synagogue of Nazareth continues in the church! The theme of Francis of Rome since he was elected Bishop of Rome has been consistent. He calls us to resume the process of aggiornamento, of renewal begun by John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council.
The renewal of the church can happen only if all of us – clergy and laity, believe that God is
acting among us “today” to bring forth “the reign of God.” The early church acknowledged and reflected God working both in their lives and in the lives of others. hat ended in the 4th century when the emperor Constantine established Christianity as the official religion of the empire. The church paid a price for this new status. Civic responsibility required Christians to serve in the Roman Legions. St. Augustine developed theological justification for doing so in his “Just War Theory.” He argued that when all the required conditions were fulfilled, it was permissible for Christians to join the Roman Legions and participate in violence and killing.
That was the greatest and worst mistake made by the church in our 2,000-year history. Since then, “baptized people” no longer live in sync with their claim to be Christians. The “today” of the gospel was “rejected and since then has again and again been denied or rendered toothless.” The result is “the world goes on as ever! Nothing has changed!” Christians still appeal to Augustine’s “just war theory” to justify their participation in our nation’s military. They engage in our nation’s violence and killing while still considering themselves Christians!! “
I think a recent essay by David Brooks in the New York Times illustrates that “the reign of God” still struggles to emerge among us. His essay is about moral injury in war. The post-traumatic stress disorder suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan illustrates the inescapable moral harm of war. People who have been to war left behind the fabric of moral practices and evaluations we take for granted. War – no matter how justified or unjustified, noble or ignoble always causes moral harm.
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Those simply are pious words as long as we tolerate and condone Augustine’s “Just War Theory.” Jesus “never feared to precede the dawn.” Things do not have to be the way they are!! It will become obvious God is acting among us today if we “never allow darkness deter us from doing the good we can do.”