I am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.
This Sunday’s gospel tells us that Jesus began to speak publicly in the synagogue (Luke 4:21-30).
At first, the people seem to like what he has to say. “And all were spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”
But then, things suddenly change.
Jesus makes a reference to Old Testament story about how God worked great deeds through some non-Jewish folks in the past.
He infers that God’s grace is being extended beyond the Jews to Gentiles.
That’s not what the congregation wants to hear.
And that’s when things start going downhill…literally.
When the people hear this, they drive him out of his own town. They are furious.
They even try to throw him down a hill.
But Jesus escapes and moves on to the next town.
The story raises some good questions about the gospel we hear on Sundays.
The message of Jesus wasn’t meant to please audiences the way political candidates sometimes craft their messages to please their audiences and to get applause.
Jesus was popular as long people liked what he had to say. When they didn’t, popularity wasn’t one of Jesus’ assets.
Do we go to church to hear what we want to hear?
To reinforce what we already think?
The gospel is always “good news” but it isn’t always comfortable because it stretches us beyond our comfort zones.
And, over the course of time we’re bound to hear something at Mass that unsettles our ideas about right and wrong:
- about justice, mercy and forgiveness;
- about our responsibility in the face of human misery;
- about death and our ultimate accountability and judgment;
- and about the dignity of every human life.
There’s an old saying that the gospel (and the sermon) is meant to “trouble the comfortable and comfort the troubled.”
When we feel challenged or unsettled by the Gospel, what will our response be? Amazement or fury?
Will we “expel” the message and the messenger as did the inhabitants of that unreceptive village?
Or, will we ask for the Grace, to re-think everything in life and ask the Divine Teacher to lead us where we need to go?
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