Reflect God's Love

02-03-2019Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

I often think, and occasionally say, that “the obvious is not that obvious.” Indeed the obvious is so easy to miss seeing. We can miss what is exactly right in front us. Sometimes it is because we are not seeing what we expect and other times because we expect to see what is in front of us someplace else! We often do not believe what is in front of us is real. Today with all the changes in digitization and ultra HD monitors, etc., it is very hard sometimes to perceive what is actually real in front of us. Also, sometimes it would be easy, but we do not put the effort in to think. In today’s Gospel, we should not at all be shocked or surprised by the failure of the people in Jesus’ hometown. After all, he was so very obvious and right in front ofthem. They, unfortunately, only saw Jesus as a neighbor and not as the bearer of salvation. The question does arise of who do we see really Jesus to be.

Our Gospel for this weekend offers us a homily (sermon) of Jesus, which was based upon the prophetic reading from the great prophet Isaiah. Remember that last week in the Gospel, Jesus stood tall in his hometown synagogue and proclaimed the prophecy of Isaiah, which promised freedom from oppression and announced a time of salvation. We repeat this week the last sentence of that Gospel passage because it is critical to our understanding this week. The verse is “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The people wondered that if it is true that Jesus is the bringer of salvation, why have they not been favored with their hometown hero’s healing powers? Recall that this was his third visit home, and so far nothing extraordinary had occurred that the people knew about. That is why they think that after all is said and done, Jesus is merely the son of Joseph, a young boy grown up that they’d known all their lives.

Jesus perceived this doubt and their increasing resentment and recalled for them that the great prophets Elijah and Elisha were also rejected by their own people for healing the outsider. Bible scholars theorize that Luke is the only gospel writer who tells us this story to remind his first readers that God’s saving power includes Israel, but not Israel alone. Salvation has come this day to the whole world. However, sadly, the little town of Nazareth was not quite expecting this interpretation.

Jesus’ expulsion from their midst is absolutely shocking to all of us who hear this passage. Note, however, at the very brow of the hill, Jesus draws himself to his full height, turns, and walks through the crowd, which parts and allows him to pass from this place to a larger arena.

Prophets are people who feel and see deeply. The prophets of ancient Israel are uniquely possessed of God’s vision for our world. Our reading this weekend from the Old Testament recounts for us the call of the prophet Jeremiah, who is in many ways like Jesus. We conclude that both have a difficult calling or mission; both are treated harshly by their contemporaries and also both carry within themselves a firm and abiding sense of God’s power and protection. Some people say that in this reading you replace the name “Jeremiah” with “Jesus,” keeping in mind that Jesus is a prophet and far more than a prophet. In the second reading, our letter writer Paul proclaims the virtue of love, the kind that Jeremiah and Jesus possessed and that also possessed and anchored Jeremiah and Jesus. Paul is sure that we, too, are capable of this kind of steadfast and inexhaustible love. When we bear in mind that it is our God who is the author of this love, then all of us are capable of reflecting it in our lives.

Fr. Brian