Be open to God’s message
30 January 2022 - 4th Sunday, Year C
In this astonishing incident in Luke’s gospel, those listening to Jesus suddenly turn from praising him to rage against him. So intense was their anger that they attempt to kill him. And these are people from Jesus’ home town of Nazareth, who knew his family and had grown up with him. How do we explain this?
Today’s gospel follows on from Jesus in the synagogue reading from Isaiah about bringing Good News to the poor, proclaiming new sight to the blind, liberty to captives and setting free the downtrodden. He then stuns everyone by claiming he was fulfilling this text; he is the prophet they had been longing for.
His listeners were astonished, and greatly approved of what Jesus was saying. But then they struggled to take this in. They had heard about his miracles and teaching elsewhere, and demanded he do the same in their town. Perhaps that would really put Nazareth ‘on the map’, bringing them honour and prestige.
What a shock when Jesus suddenly pulls the rug from under their feet. Far from healing the blind, Jesus in effect accuses them of being blind to the message of God. He highlights how God ignored the plight of Israel when Elijah only helped the Sidonian widow, and when in Elisha’s time no lepers in Israel were cured except a Syrian foreigner.
Jesus’ listeners were in no doubt about the significance of what Jesus was saying, that God’s message of love and solidarity was not just for the Jewish people alone, but for everyone. Jesus was not original in saying this, since it is a theme in the Jewish prophets. But these people in Nazareth did not want to accept this, and their initial admiration for Jesus turned to absolute fury.
Pope Francis repeatedly insists that Jesus’ words are powerfully relevant for us in our very different world. Francis urges us to see with the eyes of Jesus those on the margins, those excluded and hard done by. These are the ones for whom God’s heart especially aches.
Pope Francis says the Christian community is not meant to be a museum or a cocoon keeping us safe from the problems of the world, but rather a ‘field hospital’, bringing healing and seeking out the wounded. His catchy phrases, like getting mud on our boots, or smelling like the sheep, remind us that each of us, in our own way, shares this mission.
We know God loves everyone without exception, but in Jesus’ eyes those who are most ‘special’ to God are the outsiders, like refugees and asylum seekers, the unemployed, or the homeless. As Pope Francis spells out in his document Laudato Si’, God is calling us to transform our world by protecting the wellbeing of everyone and preserving our glorious planet for future generations.
Bruce Duncan CSsR
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