Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 3rd February

Luke 4:21–30

Then Jesus began to say to them, "Today this scripture
has been fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed
at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this
Joseph's son?" He said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this
proverb, 'Doctor, cure yourself!' And you will say, 'Do here also in your
hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'" And he
said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown.
But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when
the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe
famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow
at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the
prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up,
drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their
town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed
through the midst of them and went on his way.


This is an incident in Jesus’ life which occurred in his
native town, Nazareth. According to the gospel narrative he returned to Galilee
after his baptism by John the Baptist at the Jordan river. Being in Nazareth on
the Sabbath day he went to the local synagogue and was asked to read a lesson
from the scroll of the prophets. He chose a messianic passage from the prophet
Isaiah (Is. 61:1-2) and then went on to explain it.

The people in the synagogue understood what he meant in his
explanation. He first cited the miracle worked by Elijah to feed a Gentile
widow and the healing miracle to a Syrian leper in 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 5
respectively. They saw both events cited as an insult to them because they
believed that they were the chosen people and they alone had a claim to the
Messiah. Because of their lack of faith, as they questioned was not he was this
Joseph’s son, they rejected him.

This rejection of Jesus by his own town folk must have
grieved him.  However, this was only the
beginning of similar rejections. Their attempt to murder him was an indication
of what was yet to come. It was because that the Messiah they were looking for
was a political leader who would make Israel a major political power not only
among the nations but above the nations. Nearly all the messianic prophecies
had references to the universality of the messianic kingdom, but this was
interpreted in a political and worldly sense. Their interest in things
spiritual was then at very low ebb and therefore the message f Jesus had little
interest for them. They did not want a spiritual kingdom.

For more than 1700 years they had been God’s Chosen People,
and they were proud of their superiority over the sinful Gentiles who did not
know the true God. Their very pride was their undoing. The Gentiles were God’s
children too, and they also were to share in the new kingdom which the Messiah
would establish, but the very thought of this was abhorrent to the vast
majority of the Jews.

In spite of all their rejections and opposition, Jesus spent
his public life amongst them. He gave them the first offer of entering the new
kingdom. They could still continue to be God’s Chosen People together with and
alongside the other nations of the earth. However, they refused. And their
refusal went to far as to call to the aid of the hated Gentile to crucify the
One – their own fellow Jew --  who had
come to bring the message of the true kingdom and the offer of being its first

There were exceptions, of course. Christ found his Church,
the new kingdom of God on the Apostles, who were Jews, and through their noble
sacrifices and efforts, the kingdom spread to all the Gentile nations of the
earth. Because of their sacrifices, we are Christians, members of Christ’s
kingdom on earth and heirs to his eternal kingdom in heaven.

Through our Christian teaching we have learned that our life
on this earth is but a period of preparation, a period during which we can earn
the true life as citizens of his eternal kingdom. How often do we like the Jews
of Jesus’ day, forget this and bend all our efforts to building for ourselves a
kingdom of power or wealth in this world, a kingdom which we will have to leave
so soon?

The questions for us today are: Am I one of those who
rejected Jesus in the synagogue? Do I really love Christ or, to put it in a
more personal way, do I really love myself? If I do, I will not risk losing my
place in the eternal kingdom for the sake of some paltry pleasure or gaining this present life which will end for me so soon. Amen.