Jesus and the Haters
This Sunday's gospel reading, Jesus returns to his hometown. He goes back to Nazareth and his reputation now is already enormous as being a great teacher, a great healer. And with this reputation surrounding him, he returns to his hometown. In order to really understand this Sunday's gospel reading, you actually have to read a little bit before. Jesus is in the synagogue and he opens the Scriptures and he reads a verse from Isaiah. It says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering the sight of the blind. To set at liberty those who are oppressed. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” And then this is where Sunday's gospel reading begins. And Jesus says, “oday, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” and the people go berserk. Literally, they go absolutely crazy. Okay. And what is the first thing they say? The first thing they do is they point to his worldly credentials or lack thereof. They say, "Well, hold on a minute. Is not this Joseph the Carpenter's son and isn't he from here and isn't this and the other thing?"
And they look at his worldly credentials or lack of credentials. Jesus replied, making this one of the most famous scripture readings, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. Then he goes on to predict the future. He goes on to predict the future. He talks about what will happen, what is coming. And then it says, “When they heard all this in the synagogue, they were filled with wrath.” Wrath, hatred, anger, outrage. What do they do? They lead him out to the edge of town. They literally want to throw him off a cliff. And so, as we look at the life of Jesus, there are these different instances where he is rejected, where he is persecuted. But you have to ask yourself, what was it like to come to his hometown and be treated like this? When we think about Jesus, we often neglect his humanity. The doctrines of the Church teach us that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. And so, in his complete humanity, he had all the feelings, all the emotions, and everything that goes along with that that you and I have. And I think we forget that sometimes. I think we forget that Jesus had feelings, that Jesus had very real human feelings. And at the betrayal and the rejection of situations like this that occur throughout his public life. He would have been able to put them into perspective of his divinity, but he was also experiencing them in his humanity and in our common humanity. And I think it's important that we spend a little time thinking about how did that make Jesus feel? One of the reasons it's important is because if we don't do that, we do tend to get caught up in our own little worlds and overlook other people's feelings. Our tendency is to look at other people's lives and think, "They're doing all right." But as we've talked about many times, everybody's got something going on. There's nobody you meet on any given day that doesn't have something going on in their life, in their family, in their relationships, in their career, in their personal finances, in their health and well-being. Everyone has got something going on.
Very often we neutralize other people's realities, and we neutralize their feelings. We don't ask ourselves, "Okay, how is this affecting the other person?" We don't ask ourselves, "What is the other person feeling in this situation?" And so, by going into the scriptures and asking ourselves, "Okay, what did the full humanity of Jesus experience in this situation?" I think we learn about our own feelings. We learn about other people's feelings, and we learn to relate on a much higher level with each other. At the core of what Jesus was experiencing here in this reading, we have rejection, which we all experience at different times in our lives. Jesus comes back to them and says no prophet is welcome in his hometown. We have all experienced that in some form.
When we think of prophets, we tend to think of people predicting the future, but that is not the essential nature of a prophet. The essential nature of a prophet is to announce the way of God, to announce the will of God, to invite people to walk with God. And in that respect, we are all called to be prophets in our own lives, in our own place, in different environments and situations in our lives. There will be times when we have clearer understanding or we have clearer insight of what God is calling us to do, or God is calling a group of people that were involved to do. And it is difficult. It does require courage to stand up and say, "Have we considered this point of view?" Maybe God is calling us to this.
But long before we become prophets in the world, long before we become prophets for other people, we have to be willing to be prophets in our own lives. We have to be willing to explore the will of God, the way of God, the path God is calling us to, the correction that God is trying to place upon our lives. We have to be able to be a prophet in our own life to hold ourselves accountable to that, not that we're perfect, not that we do it perfectly or anything perfectly. It's not about that, but that we continue to strive. But we never stop striving to walk with God, to seek out his path, to seek out whatever it is he's calling us to now, and to walk in that path because that is the authenticity that then allows us to step into a conversation with friends and announce God's truth, share God's truth, suggest God's way, invite people to walk God's path.