“When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.” In other words, we don’t like what he has to say so let’s take him out and kill him. Sounds like something you might read on Facebook.
These words from today’s gospel are not warm, fuzzy or ambiguous. The people of Nazareth just wanted Jesus dead. I have not heard many sermons, homilies or speeches where the crowd reaction to a speaker was “let’s kill him”. Most speakers do not want their words to end up in their own death. Instead, some of our current politicians would be just as happy to stir up an audience to the point where they might want someone else or some group to be killed. Like Jesus in Nazareth, our own Pope Francis certainly has curled some clerical toes in the Church and around the world with his words of mercy, kindness and pointed observations about corruption and inequality.
The Word of God does not always produce warm and comfy feelings. In fact it often does and should do just the opposite. This makes me wonder as I reflect on today’s reading. Do I hear the Word of God as always comforting or do I sometimes find it extremely upsetting? It’s another time in my life where I realize that when I think I have things all nicely figured out, I probably don’t. If I am completely at ease, dare I say complacently proud, in my own version of Christianity, then I’m probably worshipping a false idol of my own making.
Today’s gospel is not easy. A prophet may not be accepted in his own town. I should not be comfortable in my own cozy, ideal and ritualized version of Nazareth, where we all think and believe alike and no one ever gets their feathers ruffled when they hear the Word of God. Lent is a good time for me to reconsider my comfort level as a person who says, “I am a Christian.”
Terry McDevitt, Ph.D. is a member of the Passionist Family in Louisville, Kentucky.