30 January 2022 at Saint William & Saint Peter Catholic Churches in Naples, FL
Jeremiah 1, 4-5, 17-19 + Psalm 71 + 1 Corinthians 12, 31-13, 13 + Luke 4, 21-30
Chapter after Chapter of Luke’s Gospel Jesus is revealed as a prophet and the fulfillment of all the prophesies before him. So, it should be no surprise that Jesus, the prophet, should suffer the same fate as those before him. Today’s conclusion of the Nazareth Synagogue visit is a preview of how it will all end for Jesus. There is also a warning for all of us who listen to the word of God just as they listened; first with satisfied pride, and then with rage. That crowd drives Jesus beyond the city-walls to a hill from which they can either throw him down or stone him. It’s a preview of Jesus being taken outside the city walls to another hill where he will hang until he is dead. In this episode today, Luke says the saddest thing anyone might ever hear: “He passed through their midst and went away.” Luke speaks a warning to a church and a people that it could happen again. Jesus could pass through us and go away. We have no claim on Jesus.
The Gospel still has the power to enrage listeners. The Gospel still has that prophetic power that enraged people against Jeremiah, Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ, because the Gospel and all prophesy speaks about what is right and what is wrong. It still exposes injustice and its consequences. Easier to understand because we know the story better is the rage that came from John the Baptist exposing the marriage of Herod whose wife with quiet rage had John’s head on a platter, silenced forever. In our own time we have seen this rage silence prophets who speak about Justice: Archbishop Romero in El Salvador assassinated at the altar in 1980, and a priest from my home in Oklahoma murdered by government forces in Guatemala the next year.
The rage of the Nazareth crowd was fired up as they realized that what Jesus was saying was about them. They didn’t like it that their privileged position as his townsfolk and as Israelites was not so privileged after all. He was working signs and wonders for people they didn’t like. When they heard that the poor, the blind, and the oppressed were receiving glad tidings and God’s favor, it made them mad.
We have to be careful with our expectations in here. The Gospel is not always proclaimed to make us feel good. Sometimes it challenges us and provides something for our consciences to rethink and examine again. Sometimes the Gospel may force us to change the way we think about things or how we feel. It often challenges us about warfare, about the sacredness of all human life, about how we treat, respect, and defend others who are different from us in sexuality, race, or nationality. My friends, the Word of God is always about love, but sometimes it’s “tough-love”, that kind of love parents know about when their children begin to think they know it all, are perfect, and can do whatever they want.
We just heard about a very sad day in Nazareth. If we fail to accept all the challenge of the Gospel, Jesus himself may just pass through our midst and go away too. So, we must listen even when we don’t want to or don’t like the message.