FOURTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME: FEB. 3RD, 2013. SOUL FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY ADULT.
‘Ah, sure, who’s he to talk? Sure, don’t we know his family, and where he comes from. Who does he think he is, anyway?’
Sounds like any part of Ireland, where we so often put down the ‘local lad’ who has done well. We pull him (or her) down to size,- our size! But it happens in lots of places, and it happened to Jesus in his own home-town of Nazareth. ‘Who’s he to talk?’, they sneered. It’s one way of dealing with something or someone you don’t like,- pull them down.
Jesus had just read to them, (and they were delighted to hear it, at first!-)in their own synagogue where had grown up as child and man: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me! He has anointed me: he has sent me to bring good news to the poor (of Nazareth), to proclaim liberty to captives (in Nazareth), new sight to the blind (of Nazareth), to set the downtrodden (of Nazareth) free, and to proclaim to the whole community there a year of favour from the LORD.’ And then he had told them: ‘this text is being fulfilled today, even as you listen.’ The kingdom of God, God’s presence and action, is here today among you. Today, here, in Nazareth, for a start,- and wherever else I go, later.
He was talking to them about a whole new way of being community in Nazareth, God’s kind of community,- where the little would be raised up, the downtrodden set free,- where people would forgive, would be passionate about each one’s dignity, would free each other up in all sorts of ways.
Too much! Too much! Work a few miracles for us, they said,- like you have been doing elsewhere. But don’t ask us to change our ways or our hearts. Some other time! But not now. Just do us a few miracles!
And Jesus found it so hard, so disappointing that his own neighbours, whom he knew by first names, would just reject him. ‘Who does he think he is!’ And not only reject him, but get violently angry with him and try to dump him, outside the town,- his own town.
He got the same reception in other places too, at times, until eventually those who didn’t want anything to do with this new way of being ‘a people of God, together’, dumped him outside another town, Jerusalem,- on a hill called Calvary. That’s the end of his human life and his public ministry,- but today’s event is just the start of it, in his own home town.
‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you came to birth, I consecrated you… I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.’ (from Isaiah Chapter 1, verse 4,- today’s first reading.) From his mother’s womb, Jesus had been chosen and appointed to be a prophet of God’s love and presence and activity in each community, and in each person.
This new ‘people of God’ that Jesus was proclaiming, is wonderfully described in Paul’s famous passage about Love,- (today’s 2nd reading, First Corinthians,12) – a community of people who are patient, never jealous, never conceited, never resentful, and so on. A people who care, and who forgive as they are themselves forgiven.
Jesus doesn’t speak to ‘people in general’,- he speaks to individuals and to communities. He spoke to the people of Nazareth. He called the Nazareth community to this new vision and reality. They found it all too threatening, too immediate, and so they put it all off, they rejected his call, they rejected him.
And he quietly slipped away from them.
Do I and do we reject his message and his call to become a new ‘people of God’ where our God is wonderfully, wildly active? Do I and do we put our response to this on the long finger,- for another time?
Will he quietly slip away, if I or we don’t respond?
What’s he saying here, what’s he saying now? Today. This weekend. In my community.
Seamus Devitt C.Ss.R.
P.S. See Homepage for information on St. Blaise, Feast day Sun. Feb. 3rd.