+ Last week we heard Jesus' very first homily in the same setting that our gospel passage for today is situated. After reading from the Prophet Isaiah, in his home synagogue, Jesus rolled up the scroll and sat down and said: "TODAY THIS SCRIPTURE PASSAGE IS FULFILLED IN YOUR HEARING!" That was it! That was his first homily. I remarked last week that one of Jesus' intentions in this nine word homily was to give direction to all preachers to get to the point, quickly, and then sit down! I promised to take this hint more seriously this week. Let's see how I do!
After this short homily of Jesus, all looked intently at him and then began to talk highly of him. They were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. But then they immediately missed the whole point of the homily! They missed it completely! They condescendingly and patronizingly said "Oh, isn't this the son of Joseph?" Thereby meaning "Isn't this Mary and Joe's boy, who grew up down the street? He turned out to be such a nice man, he speaks quite well!"
They missed the point that HE WAS THE LONG-AWAITED MESSIAH! HE WAS THE ANOINTED ONE OF GOD! HE WAS GOD'S SON AND SAVIOR OF THE WORLD – their Savior! THEY DID NOT EVEN ATTEMPT TO BEGIN TO BELIEVE IN HIM!
Jesus though, read their thoughts and said, "So, you would like me to do signs and wonders here among you, like I did in Capernaum on my way here – perform a few miracles!" NO PROPHET IS ACCEPTED IN HIS OWN NATIVE PLACE! Even if I did a hundred miracles here you would not believe in me. YOU HAVE NO FAITH! and FAITH IS A REQUIREMENT NOT ONLY FOR MIRACLES BUT FOR THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF SALVATION!
They rose up then and drove him out of the town to a cliff on the top of a hill. They intended to throw him over headlong. But he passed though the midst of them and went away, no doubt shaking his head and saying aloud to himself: "Father, this is not going to be easy, saving your people; especially the ones who want to disqualify themselves from being saved! What can we do for them?
And so, the second point for me to learn as a homilist here today is: after I keep the homily short, make sure it challenges (at least a few) and hope they don't want to throw me off a cliff after Mass.
Just as Jeremiah was called in the first reading to be an unpopular spokesman for God but being promised the powerful aid of God himself to defend him against any assailants, so Jesus was clearly an unpopular spokesman for God his Father and he also had the powerful aid of this Father and the Holy Spirit to help him when he needed it. I believe that I can count on the same protection and guidance.
What it was that Jesus was speaking was none other than TRUTH, not the truth, or a truth, but just plain Truth: Jesus spoke TRUTH about everything, because he was around when everything was made (as Word of God) and so he knows thoroughly and absolutely how everything works and is supposed to work together – especially matters of dealing with God and other people. Those unwilling to hear Truth will be unwilling to hear Jesus, or anyone speaking what Jesus would have them speak –and a variety of reactions and responses could be forthcoming, some even involving cliffs, both real and symbolic.
Jesus spoke TRUTH, but he was also Truth in the Flesh; he was also LOVE, and thus Love in the Flesh: so when one is open to Love, one is open to Truth, one is open to Jesus. Our second reading today tells us that the powers of faith and hope are very important, but the power of love is most important: the kind of love that is risk-taking, self-sacrificing and totally other-oriented.
May we be open in the next weeks as the first stage of Ordinary Time winds down and Lent begins, to hear what the Spirit of God has to say to us individually and as a group when we come here on Sundays. Hopefully you will hear something that you do not know, something that you may have forgotten, something that you might initially "disagree" with. None of us are the same as we were last year at this time – and so God's Word and explanations will affect us differently this year. But if we are open to change and growth, then maybe with the grace of God we will change and grow and become more the image that God has in mind for us to become: an amazing image of a holy, caring and joyful, saintly person!
God bless you!