This Sunday’s Gospel tells us about Jesus’ visit to Nazareth, where he grew up with Joseph and Mary. It takes place not too long after he began his public life. He had been baptized by John the Baptist and those present at the time heard a voice from the heavens saying, “this is my Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”
Christ had also spent 40 days in the desert where he was tempted by the devil. And he had been going around Galilee preaching in synagogues and doing miracles healing sick people. Then he decides to visit Nazareth and, on the Sabbath, “he went as usual to the synagogue” and read the Scriptures.
At first the local people were amazed and spoke well of him, until some began asking, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” And Jesus feels that, in spite of this, they will expect him to perform miracles in Nazareth as he had been doing in Capernaum, because his reputation had begun to spread.
It becomes obvious that he does not intend to do this and says what has come to us down through the ages: “No prophet is accepted in his home town.” This enrages the Nazarenes and they try to throw him off a cliff. But Jesus just quietly “went on his way.”
Suppose Jesus was to appear in any one of our villages, towns or cities today, someone we had seen grow up among us, who learned the trade of his father, went school with our kids, and then left town. One day he returns, comes to church as he used to, and is invited to do one of the readings.
It could be from Jeremiah (the first reading) where God says that he had predestined him to be a prophet and, even if rejected, God would always be with him. Or it could be the one the Gospel tells us is from Isaiah that Jesus reads. It about the Spirit of the Lord being upon him, sending him out to bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives, make the blind see again, free those who are oppressed, and tell everyone that the time has come when God will save his people. This person we’ve known from childhood ends by saying that this Scripture reading has been fulfilled in our hearing and he’s the person who has been sent by God and is going to do all this. What would our reaction be to this person?
Hopefully we would not want to drag him out of town and throw him off a cliff, but we might be more than a little skeptical, making him feel rejected by those who know him.
Perhaps some of us have had this experience. How have we reacted? We might not claim to be prophets, but we might have done or accomplished something that brought recognition elsewhere, and when we went home we might hope that someone who knows us would comment. How would we react if no one did? Jesus knows exactly how we might feel, since he experienced this. And the example he gives us is to simply pass through town and go on our way, continuing to do good things.
The second reading today is Paul’s message about love, and is surely the best known of all his writings. We have heard it many times, especially at weddings. And what a challenge it is! Paul is obviously well aware of this, as he begins this first letter to the Corinthians admitting that even if he can speak in tongues, have prophetic powers, understand all mysteries, be able to move mountains with just faith, and give away all his possessions, he is only a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal — in fact, he is nothing if he does not have love.
What a beautiful description Paul gives us of love in all its aspects, in all the ways it may be experienced, given and shared. And he reminds us that, in spite of everything that might happen in our everyday lives, we can try to remember that “Love never ends.” Paul urges us to look at ourselves honestly and ask: are we envious, boastful, arrogant or rude? Do we ever insist on having our own way? Are we ever irritable or resentful? Or can we say that we are mostly patient and kind, living with hope no matter what goes wrong?
Actually, I do know some people who come pretty close to being loving most of the time. At least whenever I see them. But it’s a life’s work, trying to get it right, isn’t it?
Noble was pastoral animator in an elementary Catholic school for 30 years, produced community television programs for 11 years in the 1980s and ’90s, was animator for her diocesan English Region from 2000-2006 and is past national president of the CWL (2006-2008). She lives in Candiac, Que.