A Mission Opposed

4th Sunday Ordinary Time | Luke 4:21-30; 1 Cor 13:4-13

If you are like me, it is important for you that people approve of what you do and say. Though this tendency seems to be deeply rooted in our nature and so has always been a part of human experience, this desire for approval is particularly evident in the world of social media. When we post something on social media, we want as many people as possible to “like” our picture or message. We all seek affirmation. The idea that others would be opposed to us or even resent us because of our words or actions is a fearful prospect. The Gospel today forces us to reassess this desire. It challenges us to realize that if we are living our Christian mission well, then there will always be some who disapprove of what we say and do.

In the Gospel, we see that when the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth become aware of the true nature of his mission, they violently reject him. In the Gospel from last Sunday, Jesus announced the nature of his mission while reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue. He told the people that he had come to “bring glad tiding to the poor”, “proclaim liberty to captives”, “recovery of sight to the bling”, “let the oppressed go free” and “proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord”. In today’s Gospel, the people respond to Jesus’ proclamation of his mission. At first, some respond positively. They are amazed at the “gracious words that came from his mouth”. Soon however, the crowd starts to turn against him. This happens in large part as Jesus explains that his mission would not necessarily be addressed at them, but would be aimed at those of the lowest social status. To highlight this, Jesus compares his mission to specific incidents from life of the great prophets Elijah and Elisha in which they reached out to people on the margins: Elijah’s miracle he performed for a non-Jewish widow and Elisha’s healing of the non-Jewish leper Naaman. Like these prophets, Jesus indicates that he has come in a particular way to aid those of the lowest tier in the society. When the people in Nazareth realize the true scope of Jesus’ mission, they react violently and attempt to stone him, perhaps enacting the punishment the Torah demands should be meted out to false prophets (Dt 13:1ff). Jesus is nearly killed when the true nature of his mission is made clear.

Praise the Lord

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