4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection by Nicole Zenner

This weekend's readings are rich with imagery and emotion and gave me some pause on my reflection. They are a reminder to trust, have faith, and a compassionate love for others.

The first reading from Jeremiah is the reminder to remain faithful, even when this is hard to do and nothing seems to be going our way. How many of you have struggled with this or questioned this? I know I have. When we lose people we love, don’t get the job/client we thought was perfect, struggle with paying monthly bills, see discrimination, or battle an illness or addiction it can be difficult to remain faithful…remain hopeful. When life does not go our way or when others persecute, judge or dismiss us, it is easy to be angry or fearful. These are normal human emotions and reactions. But the lesson from Jeremiah is that God created us. Every physical feature, every hope and desire, every brain cell­­—He created. God has made each of us unique, with certain strengths and a specific journey on this earth. I think it is easy for us to forget this. In a country, and city, where most of us can order almost any product or service and have it delivered to our doorstep in a matter of hours, we can be lulled into thinking we have control over our life. Oh yes, we do have choices, and those can have good or bad consequences, but God created us to have our own individual journey. One of my favorite quotes is, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Knowing that my destination is heaven, I have to have trust that the journey I have on earth is filled with the love, heartbreak, joy, and sadness that I am meant to experience. It’s not an easy lesson, but it is the manifestation of agape, God’s love for us.

Which brings us to our second reading, which is one of the most widely used reading at Christian weddings. Yes, First Corinthians’ description of love is a guide for couples as they navigate married life. But really, this is the description of agape. It is God’s love. It is a love of charity and compassion. A love that reaches outward. A love that only asks that you continue to love one another. It’s pretty powerful and humbling to truly understand how much God loves each and every one of us. It is also inspiring. We’re humans and we’re sinners, but it doesn’t mean we can’t work towards a love of charity and compassion and reaching outward. We can “transform our selfish instincts into love that nourishes the life of others.” In fact, that reaching outward is one of the reasons why I love the Saint Clement community. The number of service opportunities where I can help an individual or organization with money, my time, or purchased items is incredible. In a world where we sometimes do not know where to start to give back and show love to strangers/neighbors, our Saint Clement community provides these opportunities. From supporting the Sunday Giving Commitment which helps us budget for the Clement Commits program each year, to preparing lunches for the homeless, to participating in Service Day each April—there are so many opportunities to put your faith into action. So many opportunities to love one another as God loves you.

In the Gospel reading today, we see raw human emotions that many of us have experienced at some point. People we thought that knew us, maybe cared for or respected us, turn their backs. Or maybe we were discarded from the “In Crowd.” It’s hard to trust our journey and God’s love for us during these times. But that is what Jesus did. He knew that what he was saying was not what people like to hear, not what they expected him to say. Have you found yourself in a similar situation before? How did you feel? How did others react when you said what you had to say? As humans we are hard wired for routine. We like to manage and control. When someone does not follow the script or expectations, we deem them as a radical, we ostracize them. But I think today’s Gospel reminds us that we need to be open to the unexpected. We sometimes need to see with fresh eyes. We need to put away our preconceptions of others and let go of some of our control. Trust the journey. Have faith. Love one another.