Our Gospel story picks up midway through the fourth chapter of St. Luke. The final part of Jesus’ interaction with the people in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. He has just announced that the prophet’s words are fulfilled “in their hearing (v.21).”
The people go from praising his gracious words to saying, who are you to teach us; we know who you are, the son of Joseph. In other words, an ordinary member of the community—nothing special. Similarly in our first reading from the second book of Kings, Naaman the Syrian hears that healing will come by a simple washing seven times in the Jordan. He is deflated and prepared to travel home without doing this ordinary thing. Ordinary is irrelevant in both stories. However, Naaman listens to reason from his servants and is cured. Jesus’ reasoning did not garner the same response. In pointing to the truth that a prophet is not accepted in his native place, his words caused “fury.” Fury is described in the dictionary as “wild or violent anger.” He reminds them of times when prophets healed outside the chosen people. It was not only about them but anyone who heard and believed. Perhaps, they were not ready to listen to his inclusive message of salvation for all.
The irony of this scenario is that Jesus “passes through their midst and went away (v.30).” I have often wondered how this could happen; how could he have escaped their fury? I understand this story foreshadows Jesus’ ultimate fate, and it was not yet his hour, as the gospel of St. John would offer. However, I believe their fury blinded them so much that Jesus could slip away. Did they feel put down and disrespected by Jesus? Might that have caused this eruption? Sometimes the truth is hard to take, and anger is triggered. That is our human condition. The “act and not react” principle is not always easy to follow. Can you relate?
The important thing—I believe—is to accept our transgressions and move on in hope. Otherwise, our anger may blind us from our life’s gifts. It isn’t who we are. We are children of our Father, made in his image and breathing his breath from the beginning of creation. God is in our breath, the most fundamental—ordinary—thing we must do to live.
The spiritual writer Paula D’Arcy says, “God comes disguised by your life.” In similar language from Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh, “God is found…in the bits and pieces..in the pots and pans.” As we observe the ordinary moments in our lives, may we notice the extraordinary miracles arising from each one. Today and every day. Blessings on your journey.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.