When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he 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.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
The scene depicted in today’s Gospel starts out on such a high note. We hear Jesus proclaiming that the poor and oppressed, the blind and the captives, have reason to hope. God is going to meet their needs. Who wouldn’t rejoice in that news? When he finished speaking, the murmuring began, and to our relief the crowd approved. How eloquently he must have spoken. But, within moments, word starts getting around that he is just the neighborhood kid, Joseph’s boy, and with this knowledge the crowd becomes suspicious. In the midst of this chatter, Jesus doesn’t try to justify himself; he doesn’t start citing his credentials. In fact, he further muddies the water by challenging them and reminding them that their ancestors also doubted the prophets.
This is something the crowd doesn’t want to hear, so just as quickly as they praised him, they turn on him. How often do we do that? How often do we reject coworkers, friends, even family members, when they say things we don’t want to hear. As followers of Jesus we must allow ourselves to hear the Gospel challenge when it is soothing and affirming, as well as when it is difficult and frightening. Our faith demands it.
There is another challenge in today’s Gospel that we don’t want to miss. It is our own call to imitate Jesus in proclaiming loud and clear the truth of the liberating Gospel that he witnessed to with his life. In each and every moment we are called to speak the Christian truth: We are called to proclaim it to those who perhaps can’t fully comprehend it, to those who will not agree with us, and even to those who can hurt us, those who have the power to make our lives difficult in a myriad of settings. As a follower of Jesus, as followers of the one who lived, died and rose for us, he demands no less.
What truth is someone trying to speak to you? Is there a truth that you are being called to speak this day?
—Judy Henry McMullan earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (formerly Weston Jesuit School of Theology). She currently works as a Pastoral Care Minister at Bethany Health Care Center in Framingham, MA
Grant us your peace, O Lord,
and strengthen our faith in you;
may we live as witnesses to your Gospel
and rejoice in your presence among us.
—St. Augustine’s Prayer Book