1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Today’s Gospel passage is the rather rich and dramatic reading which incorporates Jesus’ proclamation of the fulfillment of the Isaiah passage he has chosen to read in the synagogue of Nazareth, the positive response of the people, the transition to doubt and anger, and finally, the turning against Jesus and seeking to do him bodily harm.
One is tempted to think, "Why didn’t Jesus leave well-enough, alone?" He had held up the mission proclaimed by Isaiah as having reached the time of fulfillment. The people "all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth."
Instead of building on the popularity that he had generated for himself, he goes on to accuse them of selfishness ("Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum."). He replies that in the time of Elijah the Prophet, God favored the poor and needy who were in Sidon and Syria, rather than the Chosen people of Israel, thus reminding them in one utterance of God’s compassionate generosity to all people, and the low ranking of their town and its synagogue compared with the magnificent architecture in Capernaum.
It is no surprise, then, that "they rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill…to hurl him down headlong."
It is a familiar lesson that comes from today’s gospel passage. The Church is a revelation to all peoples of the compassionate goodness of God. The Church reveals God’s saving action in Jesus Christ as intended to reach all people. But not "all people" can welcome that message. We prefer that God build up in our lives the evidence of our spiritual superiority, our spiritual strength, and our proximity to the Kingdom. We might even suffer from a spiritual jealousy of those who seem to have more than we have been allotted by the providence of God.
Taking a cue from the Gospel of the 22nd Sunday (C), let us remember that wonderful Christian virtue we call "humility". In a modern definition of that virtue, we believe that to be humble is to "see ourselves as God sees us." God sees the divine image in us; God sees the life of one for whom his Son, Jesus, gave his life; God sees every effort we’ve made to be open and attentive to the Spirit of God; and God sees all of our sinfulness, and loves us still.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.