Today’s gospel (assuming a different one was not used because of Labor Day) is taken from Luke 4:16-30. Jesus has come back to His hometown of Nazareth. As He always did, He went to synagogue on the sabbath. Given the opportunity to read, He quotes Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” When finished all present look at Him intently. He finally speaks, telling them that the passage is fulfilled in their hearing. They react enthusiastically, speaking highly of Jesus. But then the Lord, knowing the thoughts of their hearts, tells them that He will not perform great deeds there as He has elsewhere. He cites the cases of Elijah and Elisha who healed pagans over the Chosen People. Furious, they desire to kill Him (see above) “but he passed through the midst of them and went away” (v. 30).
We might, upon first completing this reading, identify with Jesus. Conveying a tough message to a presumably friendly group (family, friends, familiar faces) can put us on the outs, even to the point of severely straining or even losing certain relationships. We would hope to remain stalwart in the truth in the face of this adversity. But maybe it is better to consider ourselves Nazarenes today. Imagine (or maybe recall) an experience in which we excitedly await attending a talk of a famous speaker of whom we’ve heard many great things. Maybe we even are familiar with some of his material and appreciate that he really “gives it to” those who we feel need “straightening out.” We tell everyone to check him out. The day comes and we eagerly await words of comfort to us and wrath to those we find problematic. And then the tables are turned. The message of reform seems to be aimed directly toward us. We’re not the ones that need fixing! How dare you come in here with that nonsense! We’re not the problem! But then, hopefully, we recall that “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb 4:12). When we feel the poke, the pinch, the deep cut, in whatever way we encounter God’s Word, the difficulty lies with us, not Christ. Unlike Jesus’ neighbors, may we not grow so blind and angry that we are more willing to toss the Word of God over the proverbial cliff. Rather, such an experience should compel us to closely examine ourselves in light of Scripture and make the changes necessary to conform us to the Good News of Jesus Christ.