Monday of the 3rd Week of Lent
The Rejection at Nazareth
I read the following summary of the comments made about the parish priest in a typical parish entitled “A Priest Is Always Wrong.” It runs this way:
If he starts the Mass on time, people say his watch is wrong
But if he waits for people, they say he has never been punctual
If he preaches too long, they say they get bored
But if his homily is too short, they say he is unprepared
If he asks for donation, they say he is greedy
But if he does not ask, they say he is proud and lazy
If he visits houses, they say he is always out
But if he stays in the convent, they say that he has no time for them
If he is too young, they say he has no experience
But if he is too old, they say he should retire
But when a priest dies, nobody can take his place.
Today’s gospel Jesus is back in Nazareth and He is speaking in the synagogue. And the people assume that since He is their kababayan (town mate) He is obliged to perform miracles for them. Before anyone or anywhere else, their sick people should be healed first. But Jesus shows them that He has to perform miracles, not only to them but also to all; that God cares for all of His people and that, when it comes to help He has no favorites. He cites the examples of two famous prophets: Elijah, who worked a miracle to feed a widow of Zarephath (1Kings 17:9) in the pagan territory of Sidon when there was a famine throughout Israel; and Elisha who cleansed Naaman the Syrian (2Kings 7:1, 3) of his leprosy though he was a foreigner and therefore an enemy. And this angers His listeners who consider themselves to have a monopoly on God. They are God’s chosen people and they resent the fact that Jesus was putting them all on the same level.
I can imagine how frustrating it might be for Jesus who labors so much to preach the good news of salvation only to be refused by the very people who are expected to support Him of His mission. Worse still, because of their anger, they drive Him out of town with the intention of hurling Him down the cliff.
If God has no favorites, then He has no favorites within us. In other words, if we spread out the canvas of our life: the good, the bad and the ugly before Him, He would have total acceptance for each area. Fr. Jack McArdle in his homily on this gospel passage said that we don’t try to put on a pious and holy face when we come before God! He knows us through and through and all He asks is that we stand honestly and humbly before Him. Humility has had a bad press because it can be interpreted as meaning that we are worthless, useless and nothing better than a worm crawling around. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are good, because in the words of Herb Banks, God don’t make no junk. Humility is nothing more than accepting things exactly as they are. Humility is truth and the truth will always set us free.