The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
30 January 2019
Six-and-a-half centuries separate Jeremiah’s experience (c. 627 BCE) in Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin, from Jesus’ preaching (c. 30 CE) in the synagogue of Nazareth in Galilee. Situated in the hometown of each of them, these events inaugurate their prophetic ministries. The intimacy in Jeremiah’s call (Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you) can be sensed again in the description of Jesus as filled with the power of the Spirit. The expansive scope of the prophetic work finds succinct expression in Jeremiah’s mandate as a prophet to the nations. Jesus acknowledges that no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown, and then recalls Elijah’s amazing provisions for the widow at Zaraphath in Sidon and Elisha’s healing of the leper, Naaman the Syrian, both obviously not in Nazareth or even Israel. With that, the initial rapt attention to Jesus’ teaching turns to rage.
A dramatic difference in the experiences of Jeremiah and Jesus emerges as we look more closely at the longer text from which each passage has been taken. In Jeremiah, the missing piece (1:6-16) is his portrait as a very reluctant prophet (I don’t know how … I am just a youth). The Stone Edition of the Tanach comments that of all the prophets … none had a more difficult task than Jeremiah … ultimately Jeremiah had the bitter taste of vindication as Jerusalem was destroyed … consumed by his love for Israel, Jeremiah wept and grieved (p. 1071). In contrast, though Karris eventually draws attention to the Lukan theme of “Jesus, the rejected prophet” (NJBC, p. 690), the missing piece (4:16-20), in today’s passage from Luke, cites Is. 61:1-2 (The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me … to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor), which Jesus affirms: Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing; this is Jesus’ exuberant entry into his mission.
The Jeremiah text gives considerable attention to the personal formative effect of this call in the life of the prophet. He is to report everything that God commands him to say. There are strong images of how God is reshaping Jeremiah – into a fortified city, an iron pillar, a bronze wall — to face the challenge ahead. Then intimacy emerges once again in the promise that they shall not prevail against you … I am with you to deliver you. The comparable effect for Jesus is conveyed in the first and last lines of the reading: Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit … passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
The verses of Ps. 71 that have been selected for this liturgy might be seen as the prayer of the prophet, who appeals earnestly yet confidently to God as my refuge, my rock, my fortress, my hope, my trust, and concludes, I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. The text from 1Corinthians identifies the heart of the prophetic message, which is a still more excellent way, love: If I have prophetic powers … but do not have love, I am nothing … prophecies will come to an end … we prophesy only in part … the partial will come to an end, but faith, hope and love abide … and the greatest of these is love.
Reflection and Discussion: 1. Reflect on a prophet of our time – the prophetic message, the relation with God, the attitudes, the commitments. 2. Do you experience a prophetic call? Share something of it.
Bibliography: Tanach, The Stone Edition (Mesorah Publications, New York, 1998); Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford University Press, New York, 2011); Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, Roland Murphy, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1990).
"The work of Maurycy Gottlieb, the spiritual father of Jewish painting in Central Europe, became a brilliant high point in Polish-Jewish artistic relations. The artist left behind an abundance of excellent works despite dying at the very young age of 23. He grew up in an affluent Jewish household in the town of Drohobycz and maintained strong emotional ties with Orthodox Judaism while also being fascinated with Polish history and art. He considered himself equally a Jew and a Pole, which he expressed in the famous words I am a Pole and a Jew and, God willing, I want to serve both. This attitude was manifest in the artist’s eagerness to portray themes that identified and demonstrated honourable moments in Polish-Jewish co-existence and the common roots of Judaism and Christianity. The main link between the two religions and cultures became the figure of Jesus Christ, whom Gottlieb strove to inscribe into Jewish tradition. In this painting, as he gives the sermon in Capernaum, Christ is shown wearing a tallith, a shawl worn by Jews during prayer. He addresses the synagogue looking like an Orthodox Jew, though, out of respect for Christianity, the artist placed a halo above Christ’s head. The indifferent expressions worn by many of the listeners and the artist’s self-portrait in the crowd with his arms hanging low in a gesture of powerlessness seem to imply that most of the artist’s religious peers remained unconvinced by any suggestion of Jewish-Christian unity. Gottlieb began work on the painting in Rome in 1878, not long before he returned to Poland on the invitation of the great painter Jan Matejko. Sadly, the painting remained unfinished as the artist died a mere six months later, in July 1879, in Krakow of complications following a throat illness."
Source: Google Arts & Culture
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