1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Have you ever noticed that when you hear something over and over again you tend to stop listening and not hear it? Frequently I find we do this with the scriptures. And here in the first reading, when Paul is speaking to his friends in Corinth, he reminds them that he didn’t try to trick them, nor use any kind Greek philosophical wisdom, nor was he at all eloquent. He simply spoke of Jesus and how Jesus was crucified on a cross. I think sometimes we hear this so much that we stop cherishing the depth of it. For us it is not new information and therefore it is easy to dismiss in a quick, "Yes, I know that".
Backing up for just a moment, the Greeks had strong, authoritative, influential gods and goddesses. These deities were to be an inspiration to the people. And the strength and influence of the deities almost implicitly suggested the people should follow with the same qualities. So when Paul is in Athens and he begins to speak about one who was crucified, the orators of Athens laughed at him. For why would any deity ever be crucified? That is not a god; certainly not according to Greek expectations.
The events and manner of Jesus’ death are far from the way that human beings would have written the script. And we can say the same about Jesus’ birth. Both the Christmas and Easter stories remind us that God does things differently than we would expect. On one level we know this. But when it comes to day-to-day living, it frequently is hard to apply this in practice. Today is one of those days, as we see this in the gospel.
The setting takes place in a familiar place. Not only is it in Jesus’ home town of Nazareth, it is also in the sacred place of the town— the temple. The people had seen Jesus there thousands of times. They’d watched him grow up, knew his family and all kinds of things about him. And here today as he opens the scroll and reads from the prophet Isaiah, ecstatic ears delight in hearing his eloquence and insights. Scripture says they, "marveled at his appealing discourse". Yet when Jesus goes just a little further, he mentions two "outsiders", first, a widow of Zerephath and second, Naaman (2 Kings 5). What is wrong with these two? They are both outsiders, people who have no status. Why would God side with anyone such as these when the Jewish people were supposed to be "the chosen race". So on this day when Jesus begins his public ministry in Luke’s gospel, we see the people transformed from singing Jesus’ praises to taking him outside to throw him off the edge of the cliff, all in the course of six verses.
Perhaps the lesson learned is that if we are truly called to follow Jesus, and we say yes to following him, Jesus is going to take us where we don’t want to go. Jesus will challenge our opinions, attitudes and actions. He’ll continue to call us to be honest and people of integrity. This is conversion. It frequently is difficult. It is a whole lot easier not to listen. If we simply say, "Oh yea, I’ve heard that before" it gives us an excuse simply to dismiss it and continue on with what we want to hear.
Word of God, speak!!!
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is on the retreat staff at Christ the King Retreat Center, Citrus Heights, California.