[4th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, 31 Jan 2016, / Jer 1:4-5, 17-19 / Ps 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15+17 1 / Cor 12:31—13:13 / Luke 4:21-30]
Life has many highs and lows. One of my friends was complaining about his job and wanted to resign. The very next day he secured a big deal and was so happy. One day he was sad and dejected and the next day he was so happy. Life has high points and low points. In one moment we can be healthy and even taking our health for granted and the next day we fall sick. I was doing some sports recently and now I have backache and have to rest. Life has ups and downs. In one moment you can be the hero of your work, receiving accolades then the next thing that happens is you get fired as happened to one man I know. Even in our spiritual life we have periods of consolation, when all seems clear and we seem to be running toward holiness. Then comes a dark tunnel, we wonder where we are going and we feel desolation. How can we live these various moments?
Jesus himself experienced highs and lows. When he spoke in the synagogue in his home town at first the people were amazed -= “And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” (Luke 4:21-30). How easy to enjoy praise! But it can become a trap, a kind of drug that is very addictive – the desire to be praised and the concomitant allergy to criticism. St John Chrysostom commented “I know not whether any man ever succeeded in the effort not to be pleased when he is praised, and the man who is pleased at this is likely also to desire to enjoy it, and the man who desires to enjoy it will, of necessity, be altogether vexed and beside himself whenever he misses it… they who long for applause, not only when they are blamed without a cause, but when they are not constantly being praised, become, as by some famine, wasted in soul, particularly when they happen themselves to have been used to praise, or if they hear others being praised.” (Treatise Concerning the Christian Priesthood, Book V,4).
Jesus shows his freedom from human praise because afterward he speaks the truth directly to those in the synagogue. He reminds them that the prophets Elijah and Elisha went to serve the non-Israelites and this enraged the crowd so much so that they were “filled with fury.” They wanted to throw him off a cliff! Jesus is stable in the praise and in the criticism. He can bear the intense heat of criticism and the cold shoulder of rejection, he is a man who is constant in all seasons. His example reminds us that we will experience challenges, sometimes our emotions are up, sometimes they are down, sometimes we don’t know where they are but in all this let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Even in front of the cross he did not give up, he persevered. The letter to the Hebrews tells us: “For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
We need to learn from Jesus how to live with praise and criticism. One huge problem with our faith is that we try to be people pleasers. We seek the glory of man and not the glory of God. As Christians we have each been baptized into the prophetic mission of the Church. To speak out for justice and truth like the many brave journalists around the world who have given their lives in the quest to announce the truth.
How can we be more stable in the middle of life’s challenges? How can we weather life’s storms? Any good ship’s captain knows the importance of an anchor, which gives stability in the storm. Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ that we have a solid anchor – Christ himself (cf. Hebrews 6:19). In early Christian art, in the catacombs of Rome, the anchor was used to depict Christ. He is our steady anchor and gives us much stability in the storms of life. We have a great anchor, Christ himself. Let us hold onto him tightly! Let us learn from him how to handle various emotions, to live with praise and offer it to the Father – “all glory and honor is yours Almighty Father” and when we are criticized to give it all to Jesus.
Only when we are firmly rooted in this relationship with the Lord will we be able to persevere and endure what comes our way. And in the middle of the battle we can imitate Christ—“They tried to throw him off the cliff but he passed through the midst of them and went away.” Water off a duck’s back! Jesus, teach us how to live all life’s situations with you, the highs and the lows, and to be more constant in our loving response to you. May you be our anchor in the highs and lows of life. Amen.