4th Sunday Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 1, 4-4.17-19
1 Corinthians 12,31-13,13 or 13,4-13
Luke 4, 21-30

By Fr Elmer Ibarra SVD (Australia)

One of the more difficult things to do as a priest is to preach in front of your own relatives. Just after my ordination, my aunt asked me if I could bless their new house. In that blessing, I said that honestly the most difficult thing for me to do is to preach in front of them because I don’t know if they would believe what I would say. Then they just laughed and then they became silent as I did my homily during the blessing. 

In our gospel for today which is the continuation of last week’s gospel. Jesus after mesmerising the people in the synagogue of his reading and preaching. Then after the two stories of the experiences of Elijah and Elisha, two of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament, and they thrown Jesus out of town. What did Jesus say that his townmates drove him out and even wanted to kill him? 

Jewish culture is very complex and sometimes hard to understand in the context of our lives in the Western world in the 21stcentury. There are two explanations why Jesus’ townmates reacted so violently towards him. 

First, it is a time-honoured tradition that the son should take on the trade of the father. In their society, the expectation must be that if Joseph, which is Jesus’ father (in their eyes) is a carpenter, then Jesus must pick up this trade. In many societies, this seems to be the norm. Now, Jesus who is expected to be a carpenter after Joseph, did not pick up this trade but became an itinerant preacher. And not only that, Jesus also seemed to be stepping outside of his “family boundaries”. What I mean is the expectation for him to act according to the expectation of his townmates are seriously breached. 

Second, Jesus already anticipated of his townmates’ expectation on him. They are expecting him to do and heal a lot of people like what he did in Capernaum. However, he gave the example of Elijah and Elisha as if to say that Jesus is not only for his townmates but he is for everybody. Something that the people of Nazareth find it difficult to accept.  When I was a new priest and I’m preparing for my visa, some people come up to me and says that why do I need to go abroad. They’re trying to convince me that there’s also a great need of priests in the Philippines and they could also take care of us as well. However, I tried to convince them that while the need of priests in the Philippines is there, the need for priests abroad is even greater. 

Jesus likened himself to Elijah and Elisha that even as early as that time, these prophets have emphasised that the blessing of God is not limited to a particular people but to everybody. Something that the Jews find it hard to accept. 

It is almost human nature to possess and not share. When we have something or someone good in our midst, we don’t want to share. The Nazarenes have a great person in their midst and it seems they can’t accept that he is for everybody. They just wanted to have Jesus for their own, either as a carpenter or just a preacher in their own synagogue and nowhere else. God has always emphasised that we can never limit his power and his generosity. And so neither should we. We should also share God’s blessing to us as God also doesn’t choose whom he would give his blessings and that is for everyone. 

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