Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Jer 1:4-5, 17-19
Psalm 71:1-6, 15-17
2) 1 Cor 12:31-13:13 or 1 Cor 13:4-13
Gospel: Lk 4:21-30
The biblical prophets met with varying degrees of acceptance and rejection. The classic example of a rejected prophet is Jeremiah.
Many of the people he prophesied to thought he was mistaken about God’s intentions. They regarded him as a danger to society. He narrowly avoided death at the hands of his enemies. His messages from God having been ignored, he was kidnapped and taken into exile, where he died.
In today’s first reading, God speaks to 20-something Jeremiah, perhaps for the first time, to put some steel into the young man: “Stand up and tell them all that I command you.”
Jeremiah can trust that God knows what he is doing in calling him to a difficult life. Jeremiah is God’s creation. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born … a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”
The accounts of Jeremiah’s life show that God did support him in his hardships. But we also see him crying out to God in distress. Apparently, few people stood by him.
God’s words to Jeremiah have often been used in arguments against abortion, and with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade having just passed, the connection comes readily to mind.
Every unborn baby is “formed in the womb” by God and so deserves protection and care. But this does not exhaust the significance of this text for abortion.
In a situation where a mother is considering abortion, to whom is “before I formed you in the womb I knew you” addressed, if not to her?
Regardless of the situation in which she became pregnant, she is drawn into God’s plan for her, a plan that he has had for her from before she came into existence — his plan for her to be mother to this child.
Like Jeremiah, she is facing difficulties, maybe severe hardships. As it was for Jeremiah, God’s word is a profound reassurance for her, but without promising an easy path.
What about the rest of us? As a society, do we insure that every mother has all the care and support she and her child need? Do we as a church direct our efforts and resources to helping her deal with the difficulties she faces as she responds to God’s challenging word?
What responsibility weighs on each of us who knows that God’s word to every mother is “I created you for this”?
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.