"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
Of all the Christian virtues, charity is the greatest
Synopsis: This week’s first reading describes the call of Jeremiah, who was chosen by God to be a prophet long before he was born. Jeremiah was the son of a priest. He grew up in the village of Anathoth, which was about 2 miles from Jerusalem. Jeremiah lived in one of the most traumatic periods of Israel’s history when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians and her people sent into exile. Injustice and idolatry had undermined the Jewish nation, which led to Jerusalem’s downfall. Israel’s destiny has always been closely connected with that of other peoples and so Jeremiah’s calling was not limited to his fellow Jews. Rather, he was called “to be a prophet to the nations.” This reading forms the background for this week’s Gospel where Christ preaches in the synagogue at Nazareth, saying, in effect, that God’s love extends beyond the boundaries of Israel. The second reading is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. Often referred to as St. Paul’s “chapter on love,” this reading sums up the essential Gospel message. Of all the Christian virtues, charity is by far the greatest. In this week’s Gospel Jesus preaches in the synagogue at Nazareth. At first, the people were amazed, but soon their mood quickly changed. Jesus’ allusion to the widow of Zaraphath and Naaman the Syrian said to his audience that just as God had blessed the Gentiles in the past, he was going to do so again through him. Jesus warned them that if they failed to live up to their calling as a holy nation, God would punish them just as he had punished their ancestors.
Key verse: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” (Jer 1:4-5).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Christ ... fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy ... but also by the laity. He accordingly both establishes them as witnesses and provides them with the sense of the faith (sensus fidei) and the grace of the word. ‘To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer’” (904).
Life Application: The Catholic Church is like a sacrament—“a sign and instrument of communion with God and of unity among all men” (“Lumen Gentium,” 1). Each one of us, as members of the Church, has been called to announce God’s love and profess faith in Christ publicly in both word and deed and thereby draw all people into the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity. In this way we participate in the prophetic office of Christ. This divine calling, however, is fulfilled to the extent that we do so with love.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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