Year C: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: Luke 4: 24-30
After hearing Jesus’ “Mission Statement” last week, we are shown just how quickly things can change. Having set out his vision before his family and friends, Jesus seems deliberately to seek confrontation with them: no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.
It is possible that Luke has put two separate incidents in Nazareth together - the initial proclamation of the Kingdom - and a later visit when jealousy and doubt have begun to hold sway. His purpose is not to twist the truth but, in fact, to highlight it.
There can be no doubt but that the vision of reaching out to the poor - the blind - the oppressed is a fine one and no-one could take issue with that. However, when Jesus returns and finds that the faith he has met even among Gentiles is missing in his home-town, he does not hesitate to tell them. Their reaction is predictable - great hostility overflowing in the desire to rid themselves of him permanently.
By putting the two incidents together at the beginning of his Gospel, St Luke prepares us for what is to come. Jesus will indeed heal - raise the bowed down - forgive sinners. He will transform lives and bring love and forgiveness where there was darkness and sorrow.
But - as we know - that turned sour as people turned against him - not just ordinary villagers as in today’s Gospel but people with the power to kill him.
Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom of love - his works of compassion and tenderness will not prevent his being rejected - and, ultimately, faced with a gruesome death.
As we read, we may like to put ourselves into the story and reflect on what happened... Were all the villagers hostile? Was Jesus speaking in anger - or disappointment - or sorrow? Why was the reaction so severe?
From the outset of the Gospel, we detect the pattern of Jesus’ ministry. Even as Son of God, he must have been daunted by such a response from his own folk - but the Spirit within him was too strong - the need to bring his Good News to people too urgent...
As Luke says, Jesus slips through the crowd and walks away - beginning the journey that will lead to Jerusalem.
What does it mean for me?
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