The Gospel of the Day – 2016.01.31 (Sunday)
The Prophet at Home
Jesus began to speak in the synagogue: ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’
But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.
‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’
When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away. (NJB)
Calling, Gifts, and Responsibility
There is a pattern in the Gospel narrative that plays itself out through all of the books. The pattern is this; the people who purportedly know Jesus best, understand his mission least. He is best understood by the marginalized, the stranger, the outcast, and the voiceless.
Those who are best acquainted with Jesus, the people of his home town, the disciples, Saint Peter–chief among them; they are quick and eager to accept him, but are often confounded, and left bewildered when Jesus does or says something unexpected.
The reading comes to us near the beginning of Luke’s narrative and it highlights this dilemma. In the first paragraph the are delighted by Jesus and love the things he says, but Jesus discerns something in them that causes him change his tone, he cautions them; give them a warning. He reminds them of how quick people are to turn against the ones they love and revere, to turn against their leaders and prophets as they did in the past with Elijah, and Elisha.
The warning is stern, the blessings of God will not flow if you are only looking after your own interests, and if you are uncaring about the interests of your neighbor, of the alien, and of the stranger.
Justice and mercy, love and hope, these things flow from God only insofar as they flow from the human heart. This is not quid pro quo. God is not in the business of matching our contribution, our gifts of compassion are God’s gifts of compassion, human agency is the only path by which God enters the lives of human beings.
If we are not doing the good work of God, the good work will not get done.
The people of Jesus’ village mistook the power that Jesus had; to heal and restore, and the fame that was gathering around him, as something belonging to them, something they had a right to, something to use for themselves, and because of this self-interest they were not able to receive it at that time.
In the same way the disciples continuously misunderstood Jesus’ ministry. They chastised him for talking to women, for eating with outsiders, and they abandoned him on the night he was arrested. Saint Peter, the rock of the Church, denied him publicly. Only a handful of women, remained by his side until the very end.
Most Christians today are in the position that the townsfolk of Nazareth were in, at the time Jesus delivered this teaching. They believe that being a Christian gives them some special status in the world, as if God loved them more than God loves any of God’s children. The believe that God will reach down and save them, while letting so many billions of others go to burn.
People who believe this could not be more wrong.
The only thing you receive from being a follower of Christ is the burden of responsibility to love your neighbor as God loves them, to love them as you love God.
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time