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The rejection at Nazareth

Gospel Reading: Lk 4:16-30

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “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 he passed through the midst of them and went away.

REFLECTION Do here in your native place
Matthew and Mark place the episode of Jesus’ return to Nazareth, his native place, towards the later part of his ministry in Galilee (cf Mt 13:54-58; Mk 6:1-6). This is probably how it has happened, for his townsmen have heard about “the things that… were done in Capernaum,” that is, the signs and wonders – miracles – done by Jesus in Capernaum and other towns by the shore of Lake Galilee.

By deliberately putting this story at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Luke presents in capsule form the entire ministry of Jesus, his success and rejection. The people of Nazareth are pleasantly surprised at Jesus’ gracious and learned words. But when Jesus speaks about how God’s prophets – Elijah and Elisha – ministered to the pagans, their initial administration turns to rejection. Does Jesus, following his reference to the prophets, favor outsiders over his very own people – the native folk of Nazareth or the Jews as a whole? This preposterous idea angers the townspeople, and they seek to hurl the native son headlong down the hill on where their town sits.

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.