Jesus Rejected in His Home Town
Dear friends, we are in the fourth week of the ordinary time. The readings of these weeks have been set in such a manner as to tell us that Christ is the Messiah and that we have to accept Him. The first week’s Gospel was on the baptism of the Lord: the Father revealing his Son as His beloved with the exhortation to believe in him. The Second Sunday’s gospel was on the self revelation of the Son of God at the wedding at Cana: Jesus revealing through his first miracle that he was indeed the one whom they were waiting for, and his disciples, we are told, believed in him. In the Third Sunday (that is the last Sunday) we saw Jesus in his hometown and on the Sabbath day he read to them from the book of Prophet Isaiah. He revealed to them his life’s goal or manifesto: that he was sent “to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year of the Lord.” And today, the fourth Sunday, we have in the Gospel, the continuation of the same narrative: but it looks to be an anticlimax of the whole episode because his own people are not prepared to believe in him as the messiah; Jesus faced rejection.
Naturally we could ask the question, why did they reject him? The Gospel itself gives us the cue in verse 23: “Do here in your native place”, the people tells him, “the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.” In fact it was a grace from God’s part to give the people an opportunity to hear him, believe in him and be saved through him. But people seemed to be selfish. They wanted Jesus to do things they desired: it could be performing miracles, it could be freeing them from the Romans; even the disciples, we know, had such a view of the Messiah. They preferred the miracles of the Lord, not the Lord of the miracles.
Dear friends, we too in our lives could behave like the people of Nazareth. We try, quite often, getting the maximum out of people, but refuse to accept them as they are. It can happen even in our attitude to God: Could we ask ourselves this question today – my prayers, penance and novenas – are they to force God to do what I want, or am I ready to accept God and obey his will in my life because he always, has “a plan for me… a plan for my welfare and not for my downfall” (Jer.29:11).
The second reason why the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus was, probably, that they did not take him seriously, for they said: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” We have often heard the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt”.
There is often this tendency in us to take for granted, or even treat with contempt, people who are close to us: the father or mother who is held in high esteem in public can be treated quite badly by children, the husband or wife who is highly appreciated by many, may not get the appreciation and love from the partner, children’s talents which are many and varied, can go unnoticed by parents, or the friendship and love of a friend can be taken for granted after a while.
There is a story told of a monastery which had lost all its vitality and was on the verge of closing down because of the lack of novices. To find a solution to the problem, the abbot went to seek guidance from the sage who lived on the mountain. The abbot was told that there was one among the monks who was the messiah and because they did not recognize him and treated him badly this fate fell upon the monastery. The abbot hurried back to the monastery and called all the monks together to communicate what the sage had told. Now each of them thought that his neihbour could be the messiah and treated each other with great reverence and love. Soon there was much joy and cheer in the monastery. Seeing the happiness that reigned in the there, many candidates joined them and the monastery once again became vibrant.
We are often happy looking for God in some retreat centers and pilgrim places. But if only we look to our left and right, we might find God there. Dear friends, it is rather easy to venerate the messiah out there, but difficult to recognize His presence in the ordinary circumstances and people: in our parents, brothers and sisters, in the poor, homeless and the sick.
The Jews took Jesus to be a carpenter and missed encountering the messiah, whom they longed to see for ages. May the same not happen to us because we are careless, negligent or too proud.
May God bless us all. Amen