Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Little Something Extra...Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Trials of Truth 

Let's face it; it isn't easy to tell the truth. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it meets with great resistance. Sometimes it costs you friends. It may even get you killed. That's what Jeremiah and Jesus were facing in today's First Reading and Gospel. 

In the First Reading, Jeremiah receives God's call to be a prophet to the nations. He is to speak the word of God, the word of truth, to whomever God sends Him. It will not be easy. He will face opposition, ridicule, anger, threats, perhaps even death. God, however, reassures this nervous prophet, who protests that he's too young and doesn't know how to speak: 

But do you gird your loins;
stand up and tell them
all that I command you.
Be not crushed on their account,
as though I would leave you crushed before them;
for it is I this day
who have made you a fortified city,
a pillar of iron, a wall of brass,
against the whole land:
against Judah’s kings and princes,
against its priests and people.
They will fight against you but not prevail over you,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. 

God will make Jeremiah strong and solid as he stands before a hostile people, speaking truths they do not want to hear. They will try to destroy the prophet, but God will preserve him. They will fight against him, but God will deliver him from their hands. Because of God's gifts, the prophet will be like a walled city, made out of unyielding materials. He will hold strong before the highest of Israel's rulers and the lowest of Israel's people. He will place the true words of God before them for all to see, whether they like it or not. 

In today's Gospel, we see Jesus doing just that. He speaks difficult truths that the people of His native Nazareth don't want to hear. At first He is very popular with His friends and neighbors. He reads in the synagogue on the Sabbath, choosing a passage from the prophet Isaiah (“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...”) and remarking that today this passage has been fulfilled in their hearing. The whole assembly is amazed and speaks well of Jesus. 

But that soon changes. 

Apparently, the crowd has been asking Jesus to perform miracles like the ones He did at Capernaum, but Jesus does not do so. The Gospel of Mark tells us that the people of Nazareth lacked the faith necessary to accept Jesus' miraculous works. Instead, Jesus remarks that a prophet is never accepted in his native place. He reminds the citizens of Nazareth that the prophet Elijah was sent to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon rather than to a widow in Israel and that Naaman the Syrian was chosen for healing rather than the lepers of Israel. Hearing this, the people are furious. They rise up against Jesus and drive Him to the brow of a hill, intending to hurl Him off the cliff! What a change from only a few minutes before! 

Why are the people so angry? What caused such a drastic shift in attitude? By the examples He chooses to share, Jesus seems to suggest that the Gentiles are more worthy of miracles than His own neighbors, who resent the fact that their status as His fellow townspeople doesn't get them preferred treatment. Their pride is taking a huge hit. They are angry and disappointed. After all, Jesus said that Isaiah's prophecy was being fulfilled in their hearing. They want to see some action! They don't want to hear the truth. 

Jesus is teaching a difficult lesson. We all want God to answer our prayers when we want and in the way we want. We sometimes think that because we've said a certain prayer or performed a certain ritual or done something particularly good, God has to respond to us as we wish. Then, like the folks in Nazareth, we get angry when He doesn't. 

Truth is often hard to express and often hard to accept. Today's readings remind us of that, but they also assure us that God stands beside us, giving us strength and courage to tell the truth when we need to and patience and perseverance to recognize the truth when we need to...even if we don't like it. 

Lord Jesus, help me cope with the trials of truth.

No comments:

Post a Comment