The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
February 3, 2019 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 4:21-30
You have probably heard that the word gospel means “good news.” That might give the impression that everything we read about in the gospels, especially the words of Jesus himself, will be good to hear and read. We will readily accept and agree with all of it. We imagine that the gospel message should not make us feel uneasy or disturb us. It will all be good for us and we will be glad to apply it to our everyday lives.
And it seems that when Jesus came to his home town of Nazareth, that’s what his hearers wanted from Jesus. Just the good stuff. Like they imagined, like what they thought he had said in the nearby town of Capernaum. Tell us what you told them. Do here what you did there. We want to be your followers, too. Lead us to the promised land.
Apparently, Jesus did not fulfill their wishes. That’s because his message was challenging, and at times, quite difficult and demanding. His description of what was “good” likely differed from theirs. We don’t know the details, but we do know that he would say such things as, “Love your neighbor. Do good to those who hate you.” Or “Take up your cross daily and follow me.” So, when he told them what they might not have wanted to hear, they rejected him. Since Jesus failed to deliver the goods they wanted, they turned on him and “drove him out of town.” So much for “home-field advantage!”
The so-called “hard sayings” of Jesus, are, in fact, “good news” because in doing them, we are made better persons and the world becomes a better place. The lives of the saints are filled with acts of kindness and charity that are, at times, quite difficult. There is no “free ride.” And we should not expect one.
Eventually, the words and deeds of Jesus were rejected by many, especially those in the high places of religion and government. He moved from being popular in the minds of some, to being even dangerous.
Parents know that “for the good of their child” they must direct the child to behavior that the child might not like. Something similar can also happen between marriage partners. Or friends. The “hard” demands of AA toward its members are often difficult, but necessary. Jesus always (yes, always) gave to us the best possible “good news.” Further, he did this because he loved us very much. Diminishing the demands of the message of Jesus on the surface may seem unrealistic. Deep down, they are the best words we could ever hear.
©David M. Thomas, PhD