Monday, February 1, 2010

Jesus the Prophet: The Rejected Medium

Synopsis: Lk 4:21-30

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”

And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Homily of the Celebrant:

The homily started with the question “Did you ever felt like you were rejected by virtually everyone?” where all said “yes” to it. The people vary—whether they are from their hometown, a friend, someone from the barkada, a shoulder to rely on, or even someone who has blood relations to the one being rejected. This was the warning the Lord told Jeremiah in the First Reading (Jer. 1:4-5; 17-19) (My reaction would connect this to the Second Reading (1 Cor. 12:31-13:13) to be able to elaborate the Gospel).

Just as always, there are three rejections Jesus felt based on the premise that we, too, experience this:

First: Though Jesus was a good speaker, because of His background of being in a simple and poor family, there are those in His hometown that speculate his articulacy, resulting to inquiry of His origin. Thus the comment “Isn’t this the son of Joseph the carpenter?”

Second: The people of Nazareth, who should have the privilege of being the earthly dwelling place of the Word, cannot accept His mission of salvation. In the previous week, which today’s Gospel continues the story of the Synagogue incident, He read aloud the passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” (A paraphrase of Isaiah 42:1) and now He continued with “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” With this “outrage”, the crowd was disturbed—like in these times, when some dumb man announced that he planted a bomb inside a building, the people are immediately shocked—and some even have wanted to kill Him out of their disbelief. For the Jews, it is an insult to their faith that someone would “claim” to be the Messiah, which Christ did, according to His townspeople; for them, it was very explosive and very revolutionary. In their minds, they ask in vain how He could be the Messiah. Basing on the “cases” Jesus presented that supported His premise: “No prophet is accepted in his own native place”; which were the healing of a woman in Sidon through Elijah and the healing of a Syrian man through Elisha. By their disgust, the crowd emphasized, though illocutionary, their privilege of being the Chosen People that by their ignorance resulted to their downfall. What they do not understand is that salvation is NOT exclusive to the people of Israel but for all to savor. Jesus does not like this kind of attitude, the priest said. It does not mean that the Jews were infallible, so to speak, just because they are the chosen by God to be His people. In fact, this was the start of their downfall, which eventually doomed the Jews forever.

And lastly: Nazareth has no avail of Jesus because for them, He is just an ordinary rabbi from their ranks whose popularity rose instantaneously. Based on experience, someone in the group tells you in a harsh way that some people they call “excessively pride” are not really so; with this case, they tell these people, “You’re JUST one of us, nothing more.”
The priest also provided examples and applications of the Gospel like the Filipino proverb “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan,” the example of the prayer life of St. Jean-Marie Vianney, the Conversion of Russia, and the verse in the Gospel that goes: “…Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away,” among others. All four of these would be arguments in my reaction.


In the Gospel, Jesus insisted to bring the Good News to His native town of Nazareth, and was treated crudely by the people He called His own—ang kanyang mga kababayan—just because they misunderstood what Christ said about Him being the Messiah, the Gift of salvation for all, not only for Jews or for anyone else who claims that they are the only ones saved.

A correlation of the three readings for this week exist and has a very clear message: to bring truth in charity and charity in truth; Veritas in caritate et caritas in veritate; with the First Reading dealing with truth, the Second with love, and the Gospel as its point of understanding.
There are three objectives I would like to accomplish at the end of this reflection, which are:

1. To argue with some points the Celebrant of the Mass made;
2. To connect the messages of the First and Second Reading through, with, and in the Gospel; and
3. To give my own Nazareth Synagogue experience.

First, let me rebut or clarify some points our Mass celebrant made in his sermon. One is the Filipino proverb mentioned at the last paragraph of the part “Homily of the Celebrant.” Relating this to Jesus, the statement would be a contradiction due to the fact that though His towns fellows are stiffly opposed to His mission, Jesus never forgot the place where He grew up and became the best of qualities a man could achieve, since He is God and man at the same time without sacrificing the form of one or the other. The example of this is a man who wants to migrate to another country out of disgust to his hometown, and even the country, where he believes that all the bad vibes he got are piled in front of, or even over him. The lesson about this is that anyone can escape the physical problem, but deep inside, there is still a place for it, where he could just leave it undeveloped or blot it out of his biography. Another is how Saint Jean-Marie Vianney worked hard for the people of Ars, who were, in his first years as curator, ignorant of their faith resulting from the French Revolution. Still another was the conversion (which is formally known as the consecration) of Russia, where she is entrusted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Orthodox brothers have opposed to this idea that their country would be converted from Orthodoxy to Catholicism, because the Bolsheviks have no control over them; but again, the stance of the Church of the West at that time, at least, is that the Church of the East, particularly the Russian Orthodox Christians, is pleaded to join them in consecrating it during the 20th century, for the sake of the Theotokos. A last argument is about Jesus’ resilience of walking away peacefully. In order to convince His sincerity, Jesus went out of the synagogue before an angry mob with nothing to say and with truth in His eyes.

Let me now connect the three readings. In the First Reading, Jeremiah was called by the Lord to become His prophet. At first, Jeremiah is hesitant because of speaking the truth against kings, priests, and the people, but the Lord assured his safety and success for He would make him “…a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass….” Thus, this reading teaches us that we must be truthful always. But the truth can hurt someone and may make him counter-productive; instead of being hated by all, he would sow seeds of hatred, which would make things worse. That is where the Second Reading comes in. Everyone may memorize this thirteenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, for it is about what love TRULY is: “…patient, kind….” Again, on the contrary, without truth, love may turn into lust, to voyeurism, to excessive passion. That is why the Gospel came to be. It should be the relationship of love and truth without assuming or overpowering the other. And with these laid down, the Gospel may now talk about truth and charity. The two are symbiotic and complimenting to each other because of the fact that it is useless to tell the truth if the people are not even convincing their comrades what is love; and in return, it is useless to share the love with truth if the person himself is a liar.

Now, what is rejection? It is a state of mind where the individual is deliberately excluded from a social relationship or social interaction. The worst thing that may happen to someone being rejected is being ostracized. He is being set apart from the group because of any preferences, students being ridiculed out of petty fights abandoned, and many more. Rejection is also a sign of immaturity from the people who reject, and the people who are rejected that retaliate back. Why? They have this sense of ignorance of what they are ridiculing. How can one be rejected, then? In the case of Jesus, the Nazoreans know Him as a carpenter and nothing else. The reason why He got this wisdom, no one knows. Maybe one or some are rejected because of their outlooks in life, and another, vocation. An outlook in life is very personal that, in times, clashes with peers may occur; the point is that when things are settled personally, word wars would start until one would reject the totality of the environment he is with. Vocation is another thing. Being tempted by demons, and rejected by men, they sometimes pray to the Lord for forgiveness, with no matter how did it done.

Face it: There are times everyone is rejected due to many reasons. Even yours truly have made it through the toughest rejections on all talents I have. I have been defeated in contests in singing and think-tanking, even in class every day, which is also part of my immaturity as a productive person. However, there are times that I cannot control myself that I have to walk away and think about it very, very hard, apart from those who worry me for their mere appearance. I am still in the road of recovery, and that would continue until I have convinced them that I have no intentions of harming them though I’m persecuted by society every day in so many ways.
Speaking someone’s mind is a freedom given by the Father to us. For we are baptized Christians, we share Jesus’ mission of preaching and foretelling; we share Jesus’ prophetic mission, while we share, too, His salvation as we enrich our hearts to His word.

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