THE TRAGEDY OF REJECTED LOVE: HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

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Have you ever experienced rejection at any point in your life? I have and it could be very disheartening especially when you have genuine intentions, when you mean good, when your entire disposition is to help and never to hinder; rejection is a very painful and harrowing experience. Some people can recall how their applications for jobs, admissions, visas and other engagements were rejected. Some people who failed exams and interviews would have felt really rejected and dejected. Rejection is one thing nobody prays to experience. On the other hand we all like to be accepted; it feels good to be let in even when others are rejected.

While reflecting on the theme of this Sunday, I remembered a story my eldest sister told me long time ago. It was all about rejection and the attendant lessons. A flight was supposed to take off but one of the passengers was not boarded. The pilot announced that they had to wait for a man who was dragging himself as he walked to the aircraft on account of bad legs. It actually took the man time to board and the other passengers started murmuring and even cursing him for taking the whole time. Some even said that he could have started boarding hours before the scheduled time. The man finally dragged himself in and nobody smiled at him; nobody welcomed him; he felt rejected, friendless and forlorn; he remained silent.

The aircraft took off eventually but midway to their destination while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the pilot announced that he was finding it hard to detect what was going on with the aircraft as it started losing pressure and was gradually going down into the ocean. As one would expect, there was serious commotion in the aircraft as people beckoned on their respective objects of worship for assistance. The aircraft was heading rapidly into the Ocean, when the disabled passenger stood up from the farthest end of the aircraft where rejection had pushed him and started walking towards the cockpit. When people saw him they started cursing him for the delay that brought about their ill fate as they were heading for burial inside the freezing ocean; he said nothing and went into the cockpit to meet the pilot.

Few minutes later, the pilot announced that everything had been put in place and the aircraft had regained pressure thanks to the disabled passenger who actually retired as a pilot after fighting the Second World War where he got the injuries that affected his legs. By the time the pilot finished making the announcement there was silence all over for some seconds followed by a spontaneous round of applause! The disabled man stood at the middle of the aircraft and said “My dear friends you should rather give thanks to God. I was not supposed to be in this aircraft; I missed my flight and got a ticket for this aircraft very late that was why I came in last. God actually sent me to save you all beyond the rejection I got earlier”. Many people could not control the tears in their eyes!

It is unimaginable what Jesus Christ our Lord suffered on his first pastoral visit to his hometown Nazareth. Last Sunday we were told that he read from the prophecy of Isaiah (61: 1-2) which clearly brought out his messianic manifesto. He concluded the reading by stating that the scripture is being fulfilled there and then; at that instance. What that meant for them was that he was claiming to be the Messiah. The people were aware of the coming of the Messiah who will save the people of Israel from their enemies especially from the oppressive measures of the Roman government. The conception then was that the Messiah would come from a highly placed nobility with astute political might and valour; a fighter with some supernatural attributes that will be salutary for the Israelites but punitive for their oppressors and enemies.

The Nazarenes could not contain the fact that Jesus was the Messiah they had been anticipating for identified reasons. In the first place they had accepted the popular belief at the time that nothing good can come out of Nazareth (Jn.1:46). It happens often in life that some people allow their backgrounds to keep their backs on the ground. Sometime people assume into their lives names they have been called for instance “you can never do better, you are a fool, you cannot make it to the next level, you are weak, you are not intelligent, and you cannot compete with them!” These and similar statements make people redundant and operate with unprogressive mindsets. The people were sure that the Messiah would come but not from their remote town.

The second reason was their familiarity with the family of Jesus. It is often said that familiarity breeds contempt. They knew his father to be a carpenter. This means that without the meddling with wood and nails Joseph had no other identity. They actually tried to remind Jesus where he came from, they were like asking: “is it possible for Joseph the carpenter and Mary the quiet and soft spoken lady to be the parents of the Messiah?”

Most great men and women in history came from very humble homes. It is not impossible for God to make the son of a poor undertaker to become a governor of a State. It is not impossible for the child of a fish seller in a rural market to become the Chief Executive Officer of a renowned bank in Nigeria. It is often not from where you came from but from what God has designed for you irrespective of your geographical affiliation.

On the basis of background and familiarity Jesus Christ was rejected by his people. He made it also understandable that a prophet has no worth among his own people. If we pay attention very well to the gospel narrative we will see that there was an initial admiration before the rejection that even led to the attempt to kill Jesus at the very onset of his ministry. In life people will not always applaud you no matter how excellent and precious you think you are. Somebody somewhere and somehow will open up something about you to spoil the minds of the people. If we could understand the scenario very well, there was spontaneous admiration based on the wonderful words of our Lord that was laden with deep wisdom and knowledge. But suddenly someone or some people reminded others that this cannot happen in our Nazareth and not even from the house of the street carpenter.

The rejection of Jesus in Nazareth was not merely a rejection of the son of Joseph and Mary. It was actually a rejection of God which is at the same time a rejection of God’s love. Love is the reason for the coming of Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:16) so whoever rejects Jesus Christ is ultimately rejecting God and his love for humanity shown in the coming of Jesus Christ. The Nazarenes where very much like the passengers of the aircraft in our story as they (the Nazarenes) rejected and ejected the one sent to save them; very much like killing one’s own doctor.

We have been considering the actions of those who rejected Jesus Christ at his home front, now it will be good to reflect on the required reaction of someone who faces rejection. What do you do when you are rejected even when you are on the right path? When Jesus walked away from them after the rejection what did he do? Did he go home and abandoned the redemption plan? No. If we follow the narrative (Luke 4:31-36) we are told that from the home front of rejection he went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee where he taught the people on the Sabbath and he did so in a very powerful way.

We discover from the above passage that our Lord was not discouraged by the rejection; he remained in the game. If we reason carefully we will see that the rejection was an effort to discourage him and bring his mission to an abrupt premature end. Often when we face rejection we eject ourselves; this is wrong. In the first reading we understand from the life of Jeremiah that God had predestined our mission on earth and he did not promise us that we will not encounter rejection when we declare his words, but the promise is that he will be with us all through to protect us (Jer. 1:8).

Upon a deeper reflection, we understand that the Nazarenes just like the passengers in the aircraft lacked a very important attribute; that is love. Fortunately St. Paul took up the discourse in the second reading of today (1 Cor. 12:31-13:13). In his elucidation St. Paul maintained that one can be religious without having love as the driving force of his or her religious creed. It is within this context that those who attended the worship in the Synagogue on a Sabbath day rejected Jesus when he assertively declared his Messianic manifesto. Those who came to worship turned out to harass Jesus and attempted to kill him. It is upon such religious disposition that our Lord made reference to the book of Isaiah (29:13) where it says:

These people honour me with their lips but their hearts are far away from me. It is no use for them to worship me because they teach man-made rules as though they were my laws (Matt. 15:8-9).

St. Paul was instructing the Corinthians and indeed all of us to be aware of the fact that we can become too religious and fail to be spiritual. Love is at the centre of our what constitutes spiritual life. Without love there is no God because God is love (1 John 4:8). One can be a prophet; a miracle worker, an excellent preacher etc, but the person could still lack love. We see this playing out in our day with so much commercialization of religion.

Is Jesus Christ still being rejected in our day and age? As an individual do I in any way reject Jesus Christ? The truth is that Jesus Christ is still being rejected by many in various ways. We reject Jesus when we fail to trust and obey him. We reject Jesus Christ when we hear the word of God and fail to put it into practice. We reject Jesus Christ in our neighbours, we reject Jesus Christ in the poor, we reject Jesus Christ in the type of lives we live, we reject Jesus in our disconnection from the sacraments (how many of us will be willing and fitting to receive him in the most blessed sacrament today?) we reject Jesus when we are more interested in the flesh than in the spiritual; we also reject him in our failure to love others as God loves us.

We are called to undo the actions of the Nazarenes and the easiest way to achieve this is to activate love in our lives. As St. Paul instructed, love conquers all things, it endures all things, it is patient and kind it never ends (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Furthermore he pointed out that three things are important: faith (which make us to believe in God), hope (which makes us to trust and rely on the promises of God) and love (which makes us love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves) and this love is the greatest.

 Today we strive to undo the attitude of the Nazarenes and submitting ourselves to God like Jeremiah we  join St. Francis of Assisi  to say:

Lord, Make us instruments of your peace, 
Where there is hatred, let your love increase
Lord, make us instruments of your peace,
Walls of pride and prejudice shall cease
When we are your instruments of peace. 

Where there is hatred, we will show his love
Where there is injury, we will never judge
Where there is striving, we will speak his peace
To the millions crying for release,
We will be his instruments of peace

Lord, Make us instruments of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let your love increase
Lord, make us instruments of your peace,
Walls of pride and prejudice shall cease
When we are your instruments of peace.

Where there is blindness, we will pray for sight
where there is darkness, we will shine his light
Where there is sadness, we will bear their grief
To the millions crying for relief,
We will be your instruments of peace!

 

Have a blissful Sunday!

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments on “THE TRAGEDY OF REJECTED LOVE: HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

  1. One can be too religious without being spiritual. Thank you father for that wonderful reflection.

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