The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The virtue of love is always puzzling, for it is at the same time a welcome word (who doesn’t want to be loved?) and challenge that is not easily taken up. To receive love is wonderful; to give love requires great sacrifice. St. Paul’s eloquent reflection on love that we hear in today’s second reading (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13) is well known for its use at weddings, when most notably “love is in the air.” In our daily lives, though, love that goes beyond the romantic often eludes us. A holy love that is selfless, sacrificial, and essentially Christ-like is our call, but it is far from easy and often it is not inviting, for it can be painful and difficult.
Even those who experienced the words and deeds of Jesus, which were the very expression of divine love, rejected what he had to offer because it was calling them to conversion. Throughout this year we will be hearing from the Gospel of Luke, which presents Jesus as a compassionate and merciful healer and teacher to those who needed to hear good news. His message is inviting, but it challenges us to embody the same compassion and charity. I am continually moved by the commitment to the charity and care demonstrated in our community in the various forms of service, pastoral care, and outreach that so many offer, not just at Christmas, when we saw extraordinary generosity, but throughout the year. May we keep that strong resolve to do the Lord’s will “in season and out of season”— when it is convenient and when it is difficult, for those we love and for those we might be hesitant to love.
Though we do not observe his feast day on a Sunday, today (February 3) is the Memorial of St. Blaise, a fourth-century bishop, and martyr who is invoked in prayer for protection against illness and diseases of the throat. Tradition holds that, while being arrested for preaching the gospel, a young mother implored him to pray for her child who was choking on a fish bone. Through his prayer, the young child was healed. For centuries on his feast day, the Church offers the blessing of throats, which is customarily imparted using crossed candles tied with red ribbon, seeking his intercession to keep us safe and healthy…fitting for us that his feast day falls in the cold of winter when we most need such a prayer! This weekend we offer the blessing of St. Blaise as the final blessing at all the Masses.