In today’s gospel, Jesus’ confirmation of his mission in Nazareth’s synagogue causes great joy. Already impressed by stories of his deeds elsewhere, his neighbors expect much of him. Delight becomes rage, however, when he insists that his gifts are not exclusive—not for the benefit of the familiar few, for his local community alone. No longer able to embrace him, they exile him and even seek his death.
On the surface, their anger seems excessive, their response rash. We realize, though, that his neighbors are ruled by their expectations. As long as Jesus’ words are pleasing and his presence seems to hold promise for them, all is well. Yet, because their vision is narrow and they are not open to change, they are unable to welcome a prophet among them.
This gospel holds lessons for us. Like the Nazarenes we can sometimes become comfortable, complacent. Familiarity with the gospel blinds us to its challenges. The call of the poor becomes distant. We ignore injustice that does not touch us directly. We welcome the Jesus who affirms and reassures us, yet find it hard to embrace the Christ who calls us beyond ourselves, as individuals and as Church.
Inspired by Jesus, may we find courage to venture beyond the familiar. May we be bold in our response to need, generous in our compassion, and open to possibility as we continue Jesus’ mission in our own time and place.
Sr. Ella Allen, SCIC