August 31, 2015

Fr. Philip Neri Powell's Homily for Monday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time: Who do I need to be... ?

Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Notre Dame Seminary, NOLA

He said to them, "Today this Scripture passage
is fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4:21 
(Click here for today's readings)

So, Jesus – the hometown boy – walks into his synagogue, picks up a scroll, reads a passage from Isaiah, and says, in effect, “God the Father has sent me to rescue y'all, you bunch of sinners.” Surprisingly, this little stunt goes over well. . .at first: “. . .all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” Then some of the less-impressed listeners start asking questions designed to put Jesus in his place, “Hey, wait a minute, isn't he Joseph's boy?” Seeing where this line of questioning is headed, Jesus nips it in the bud, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” He then goes on to point out their faithlessness and how their ancestors abused God's prophets, earning the Father's wrath. This went over like a possum fight at a picnic, and Jesus finds himself run out of town. What's the lesson here? When your people don't like your preaching, insult them repeatedly and wait for them to get their pitchforks and torches? No. Not quite. If there's a lesson here, it's this: remember who you are wherever you are and preach the truth with charity.

Now, you might think that I'm accusing Jesus of not preaching the truth with charity. Not true. Jesus was on a tight schedule. He was headed to Jerusalem on a time-table. And he didn't have the luxury of winning hearts and minds with carefully crafted homilies. He spoke the truth. And he did so as a sign of his salvific love for his people. That he was dealing with hearts grown cold and minds long closed is no fault of his. No doubt, someone in that synagogue that day heard and saw what he needed to see and hear and came to know Christ as Lord. Jesus' method of revealing his identity and mission is meant to shock those cold hearts and closed minds into recognizing the truth that stands before them. What they heard him say amazed some and enraged others. How these two groups divided out has everything to do with who Jesus is for them. He's a hometown boy. They know him and his family. They've probably known him all his life. And now, here he is claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah. Some are amazed at his gracious words. Others are enraged by his arrogance. But Jesus is who he is – the Lamb of God headed to the altar of sacrifice in Jerusalem. He speaks the truth. And his love is made manifest on the cross. ...

Read the rest here.

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