Readings: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:21-30
This Sunday’s Gospel is a continuation of last Sunday’s beautiful Gospel of God’s Kingdom blossoming in the Synagogue at Nazareth in the person of Jesus Christ.
For us, celebrating it at Sunday Mass, what a change in one week! In Luke’s narrative, the jolting change occurred in just a few minutes. Of course, Saint Luke is making a heavy-handed point, as he tries to understand why, in a generation of pitched messianic expectation, Jesus was not accepted by his own people.
Luke the gentile–the only gentile author of the New Testament–is very respectful and appreciative of Judaism. Was he enamored of the religious culture of the Jews? He knew the Greek translation of the prophets inside out and even mimics Hebrew syntax in his Gospel. Was he a proselyte of the Jewish mission? Was it through the Jewish Mission that he heard about–or even encountered–Jesus? There’s an ancient, if not particularly reliable, Church tradition that identifies Luke with the unnamed companion of Cleopas on the road to Emmaus.
Every now and then, Luke is a bit smug that the gentiles, originally without any hope or thought of salvation, rather than the Jews, so completely embraced the Gospel throughout his known world. But by and large he respects Judaism and Jews as God’s Chosen People.
This leads me to ask, who, then, are the people in this Synagogue? Who is it who could be so capable of applauding Jesus one moment, then enraged by him the next? Are they only the neighbors who remember him as a “nobody”, the son of the local fix-it man?
As a writer, did Luke recognize in this episode the reality of his own Christian community? They were a poor community struggling to make ends meet. Like any poor community without friends in high places, without resources of their own, they were more likely to be picked on by the authorities.
Is this also their experience of Jesus? Initially all enthused, their fondest hopes lifted high–perhaps by expectations too tightly defined to recognize unimaginable possibilities on the other side of challenge or persecution.
In the long run, don’t we all suffer from poverty which is as inner and spiritual as any that is outward and financial? Could this be a portrait of our own faith community?