01.30.2022 Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jerome Nadal (1507-1580) was born in Majorca (Spain). He became one of the first ten members of the Society of Jesus. He served for many years as the personal secretary of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556).
Saint Ignatius himself urged Nadal to compile and distribute an illustrated guide for prayerful meditation on the Gospels. However, Evangelicae Historiae Imagenes was published in 1593, after Saint Ignatius and Nadal had died. It became a very influential book in Counter-Reformation Europe.
The illustrations innovated the technique of ‘perspective drawing’ in engraving which depicted three-dimensional shapes more realistically. These illustrated Gospel Books made the Gospel narratives much more vibrant and realistic, and thus more effective as aids for evangelisation and meditation for people.
Nadal selected the biblical scenes to be included in the Book. He commissioned and directed the layout of the illustrations, and composed notes to accompany each scene.
As we look at the cliff in our engraving, we notice the depth it conveys. Today’s Gospel reading tells us that prophetic witness and truth are not always well received. Nowadays too, they often provoke hostile rejection. It is a rejection rooted in unbelief. Our Gospel passage is brutal, as it shows how rejection can turn murderous. 'They nearly threw Jesus off a cliff'. A shocking image, and probably why this scene is very rarely depicted in art. The ease of Jesus in escaping reveals that, when it came to killing him, the crowds may probably have recognised Jesus for who He really was and simply let Him go.
Luke 4, 21-30
21“Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’. 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 23 He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum’. 24 And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian’. 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way”.
This passage of Luke is a continuation of the Gospel of last Sunday. Jesus after his Baptism was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil in the desert. There, He spent forty days and forty nights. Jesus then returned to Galilee in the power of the same Spirit.
Two things stand out in the words of Jesus: First, that the ‘time’ is fulfilled; and the second, that Jesus is saving his people by the power of his Word, a result of the sole grace of God, the Father.
Jesus decided to start his public ministry in Galilee, away from Jerusalem and from all any other centre of power. This took place precisely in Nazareth, the little town where He had been brought up.
This text is being fulfilled today
Jesus goes to the Synagogue to take part in the Sabbath prayer like everybody else. In his familiar town of Nazareth, in front of an attentive audience made of people who saw him growing up, Jesus is able to connect the Scriptures to his own life.
Jesus had been away from Nazareth for some time. He might have even joined the movement of John the Baptist, and consequently He was baptized in the River Jordan.
His audience must have been quite curious to know what He was going to say. However, the comment Jesus made was indeed very brief. He simply acknowledged that the text He read was being fulfilled. In this simple way Jesus began his ministry in a humble town in Galilee.
Jesus is first accepted, then, rejected
The first reaction of his audience seems to have been recognition, wonder and admiration; however, in no time, it all turned negative. They saw him just as the son of Joseph. If we wonder why they were scandalized, we can find the answer in the very words of Jesus: He spoke of welcoming the poor, the blind, prisoners and the oppressed. For his listeners that seemed too much to take in and decided not to accept him any longer: At the moment when Jesus presents his project to welcome the excluded, He himself is excluded.
This unexpected twist in the story is justified by the expectations placed upon the Messiah: He was supposed to free the nation from the political power of the Romans. How could Jesus have missed mentioning some of ‘the wrath of God upon the heathens’ in his preaching. He should intimidate people and call on his enemies to turn to the Lord!
However, Jesus preached ‘Good News’ and the mercy of God the Father. Jesus invites his listeners to open their hearts to the Gospel of love, and not to vengeance, nor to punishment.
Jesus criticizes the reaction of his people
Jesus saw in the reaction of his audience a manifestation of their envy: Jesus was already well known throughout Galilee. The people of Nazareth were not pleased that Jesus, a son of their land, had worked good things in other lands and not in his own town. Therefore, and most likely, they would have rejected Jesus even if He would have worked in Nazareth the same things He had worked in Capernaum.
They took offense at him and they thought in their hearts: ‘Who is He to teach us anything in the first place? He is just the son of Joseph, the carpenter?”
The Gospel of Mark adds that Jesus is hurt by their disbelief.
The people want to kill Jesus
The quotation of the passages of Elijah and Elisha resulted in a more acute anger. These so enraged them that they wanted to kill Jesus.
Their reaction reveals the short-sighted mentality of the people of Nazareth. They were not ready to accept that the Good News of Jesus was not exclusively for the People of Israel: Elijah was sent to a foreign widow from Zarephath ; and Elisha was sent to another foreigner from Syria.
However, Jesus remained calm, made his way through the crowd and walked away. This power of Jesus is rooted in the Spirit and in his communion with God the Father. Throughout the Gospels we realize that the enemies of Jesus are continuously defeated because Jesus puts his trust in the Father.
As we saw previously, the concern of the Gospel of Luke is to prove that Jesus himself opened the Salvation of God to pagans. In fact, Luke wrote his Gospel for non-Jewish Christians. Just as Jesus overcame rejection, so the Spirit of God will deliver persecuted Christians as well.
“He will free the poor who cry!”
“Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor”.
o As we take time to contemplate this passage, we pay attention to the details of the story and ask ourselves what does ‘the time’ (before his ministry), the ‘place’ (his hometown), and the ‘way’ in which Jesus presented his programmatic discourse mean. When, where and how is God manifested in our life?
o As it happened with his town’s people, we may miss the manifestation of God through simple persons who are well known to us, or through the simple events in everyday life. Jesus continues to invite us to be attentive to the passing of God in our life.
o What are the key elements of the ministry of Jesus contained in this summary form? Could the program of Jesus be ours, too?
o Can we think of any other reasons why the people of Nazareth were so enraged against Jesus?
o Jesus invites us to welcome the marginalized of our society. Who are they?
o Have we ever experienced rejection, as Jesus did; rejection which may also have turned aggressive and dangerous? How can we use our own experience to help others who might be suffering as we did?
o Do we feel despondent if our prayers are not answered, even after a very long time? How can we strengthen our patience and the trust we place in God? Are our expectations of God at times unreasonable?
o Do we look at God’s blessings on others and at their talents with gratitude? Or does seeing others being blessed make us envious?
o Can we accept that God loves us all? Does this knowledge help us to see Jesus in all whom we meet?
o How can we improve our own experience of prayer? Do we choose the right time? Do we listen? How can we improve our relationship with God?
Can we learn to trust in the Lord through prayer, so that it becomes the root of calm and tranquillity, rest and recovery?
Luke 4, 14-15: “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” Luke 4,16-17: “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him”. Luke 4,21: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you are listening”. Luke 3, 21-22: “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’”. Luke 4,22: “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ They asked’”.  Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum’”. Mark: 6, 3-4: “’Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home’”. Mark 6: 5-6: “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was amazed at their lack of faith”. Luke: 4,28-30: “When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him off the cliff, but he passed straight through the crowd and walked away”.  1Kings 17: 7-16  2Kings 5: 14