Tag Archives: hometown

Scripture Commentary 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

1st Reading – Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19

Jeremiah is the Rodney Dangerfield of prophets, the man who invented the tradition that a prophet doesn’t “get any respect” in his own country.  Jeremiah, during his long career as a prophet in Judah, faced a mob that demanded he be put to death; was whipped and put in stocks (20:2); was beaten and thrown into prison for ‘a long time’ (37:15); was thrown into a cistern with mud up to his armpits and left to starve (38:6); and was kept under house arrest (39:15).  After the fall of Jerusalem, he wound up in Egypt where, according to tradition, his own people stoned him to death.

Jeremiah did not walk around with a smile button on his shirt.  “Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!”  (15:10)  Yet he carried out his mission with intensity.  He always moved from anger and reproach to hope (US Catholic, Kenneth Guentert).  Compare this with our upcoming Gospel reading.  How might you move from anger to hope with the troubles in your life?

During Jeremiah’s ministry of 45 years, the world changed dramatically.  When he began, Assyria was still the world’s greatest power (Northern and Southern Kingdoms have separated), but by the time he died in exile in Egypt, Babylon stood supreme (Boadt, L.  Reading the Old Testament, 363). When there is division and chaos, it is often hard to be sure of what the right course of action is…Jeremiah had his work cut out for him!

2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 12: 31- 13: 13

Re-read this passage replacing the word “love’ for ‘God’.  How does it change for you?

From M. Birmingham, W&W, p. 355:

Paul’s community was experiencing internal strife and division.  Some people (gnostics: matter bad/spirit good, Jesus not really human so no real suffering or physical resurrection), glorifying in their own manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit, had set themselves apart as the spiritual elite.  Because of their self-righteous, emotional, and overt display of charisms, Paul wrote to them to remind them that God was the Giver of gifts and no one had reason to boast.  Paul asserted that the gifts were for the uplifting of the community, not for personal edification.  The gifts meant nothing if love was absent.  He asserts that self-giving love toward one another should be the response of every member of the community.  This passage is often read and preached during nuptial celebrations, but it has an ecclesial importance.  The church is a community of love.

The Gospel: Luke 4:21-30

Jesus shocks and surprises the people of his hometown of Nazareth; has God ever surprised – shocked you?  How does this gospel strike you? – challenge you?

Jesus, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, challenged people with an alternative to the reality of their lives.  Jesus was certainly not a politician, as we see here in this passage. The good news that Jesus came to share is always good and always new, but not always comfortable.  It would seem that Jesus would have been wiser to have quit while he was ahead.  Rather, he pushed on to an inclusive message that ‘forced’ choices that were disturbing. That is what prophets do.  This hometown crowd is angered to hear that Jesus will share blessings and wonders with others – even Gentiles.  Apparently, they took this ‘good news’ for others as bad news for themselves.             (Living Liturgy, p. 50 – 51)

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context”:
Remember: no one in Jesus’ culture was expected to improve on the lot of the parents. One was expected to safeguard the family’s honor. In today’s reading Jesus is seen by others in his village to be stepping shamefully beyond his family boundaries. Then Jesus seems to rub salt into the wound by his insulting behavior — preaching in his hometown and healing elsewhere. He does not minister to his own – but they have heard of him doing things in Capernaum, a place that was noted for having many Gentiles – people who were not of his own kind. To direct his healing activities to such a place rather than his own hometown and blood relatives was to transgress very seriously against family honor. Honor in the Mediterranean world was a matter of life and death.

3 themes found in Luke’s Gospel

  1. World Affirmation:  God loves creation; God values and works in human culture and activities.
  2. The Great Reversal:  The gospel challenges the status quo, affirming those who have been rejected and abused.
  3. Universal Salvation:  Human values are reversed, not for punishing the wicked, but for saving the lost, poor, sick, downtrodden.

(taken from The Gospel of Luke, Luke Timothy Johnson, p.21-23)

The scriptures call us to see simply this:  the trouble with fences and boxes is that God is never in them!”  (Celebrations, Feb. 1998)

It was Jesus’ habit to go to the Synagogue on the Sabbath Day.  There must have been many things with which He radically disagreed and which grated on Him – yet He went.  The worship of the Synagogue might be far from perfect; yet Jesus never omitted to join Himself to God’s worshipping people on God’s day  (Barclay, Gospel of Luke, 45).

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

1st Reading – Ezekiel 2: 2-5

Abraham Heschel describes a prophet as, “a person, not a microphone.  S/He is endowed with a mission, with the power of a word not his own that accounts for his greatness –but also with temperament, concern, character, and individuality.  It is not only what s/he said but also what s/he lived.  The prophet was an individual who said No to his/her society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism,” (The Prophets, p. x-xv).

When have you been obstinate of heart?  Did you wish God set your feet straight?  What prophets are among us now?  How are we prophets?

The daily reflection from http://onlineministries.creighton.edu says, “We are prophets when our lifestyle reflects an alternative to the easy conformities of our cultures.”  We must live as we are meant to live.  But the right way to live isn’t always the easy way.  Ezekiel is trying to convince a people who see God as a tyrant that he is a prophet for them.  Not an easy task.

The term “Son of Man” gives emphasis to the human being who is to be the bearer of the divine message. Ezekiel saw himself as called to this title; so did Jesus.  (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

2nd Reading – 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

What do you make of this?  It is questionable what Paul’s burden is, but we all have our own weaknesses and burdens.  Some commentators say he had epilepsy, some an ophthalmic condition or maybe depression.  From http://liturgy.slu.edu, “But if, like him, we learn to be ‘content with our weakness, for the sake of Christ,’ we may one day find ourselves unleashed, our hearts emboldened, our words firm and free.”  Think of St. Kateri and her suffering from small pox and not being able to see well.  She is quoted to have said, “I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus.”  Are you willing to give yourself over completely, weaknesses and all?

But Paul did not use excuses to limit his life. He knew vividly his own problems and difficulties – he even begged many times to be relieved of the ‘thorn in his flesh.’ But perhaps through his prayer he came to realize that none of his ‘work’ was about his weakness – but it was about trusting that God’s grace was sufficient for whatever was necessary. He learned to be content with weakness for the sake of Christ “in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” Like Paul, when we are weak, it is then that we are strong – in and with the Lord.  (John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Encountered,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

The Gospel —  Mark 6: 1-6

Do you find this true in your own life, when you return to your hometown or see friends and family from your past?  Where are you in this story?

Most scholars think that this passage has a ring of historicity. It is probably unlikely that the early church would have told stories about Jesus being rejected in his own hometown if it were not based on a real event. It was probably a very important story for them because they themselves often experienced rejection of their own when they tried to share ‘the Jesus story’ with their families and close acquaintances. And, of course, as Jesus will soon begin his journey to Jerusalem, this rejection will culminate in the horrible rejection of the cross. But even that horror will not end the truth and power of his life and word.  (R. Fuller, OSB, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

In Jesus’ culture there was no expectation of ‘doing better than one’s parents.’ In fact honor required that a person stay in their inherited status and make no effort to improve on it. Any effort to ‘better oneself’ was seen as a threat to others. So Jesus aroused anxiety on this point alone. Then, craftsmen at this time – especially those who lived in small hamlets like Nazareth – had to leave home to find work. They had to leave their women and children at home without proper male protection. Such craftsmen were, thus, looked upon as ‘without shame.’ How could such a one have such power and wisdom? “And they took offense at him.”  (J. Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context”  http://liturgy.slu.edu )

From Jesus:  A Pilgrimage by Fr. J. Martin:

In consulting with 1st century archeologist Jonathan Reed, a Jewish village of that size at the time would not have had a synagogue.  There has been no evidence discovered yet.  People would have most likely gathered outside, like an open space in the village, or maybe the courtyard of a wealthy homeowner (115).  Picture Jesus in that setting.  It is likely that Jesus knew how a message of openness to the Gentiles would be received in his hometown.  Nonetheless he is fearless.  How?  Courage from grace, yes.  But he also had a freedom from any desire for approval from the people in Nazareth.   He needed only to be true to himself.  He loved the people of Nazareth, but he saw beyond that (125).  How often do we worry about what people think of us?  Does it keep us from moving forward?