ALL PEOPLE in CHRIST Luke 4:21-30 February 3, 2013 Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
ALL PEOPLE in CHRIST
February 3, 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
When Jesus told two stories at the synagogue in His own town of Nazareth, the congregation turned ugly.
At first Jesus recounted the story of Elijah. The Lord, coming to Elijah during a terrible drought that dried up all the crops, commands this prophet to go to Zarephath and there seek a certain widow. So the prophet goes as the Lord’s word commands, and Elijah comes to the town near Sidon. The unnamed widow is not a Jew but a gentile. Yet this widow does as Elijah commands, and she prepares his meals and she therefore has food for her son and for herself.
With the synagogue listeners on that day, we might ask why God would send this local person, Jesus, the son of the known Joseph and Mary, to recount that Elijah went among the gentiles. The prophet Elijah went out of God-fearing Israel into gentile land, to a gentile woman. Why did Elijah go among the gentiles? Why?
Then again, why does Jesus recount the story of Naaman, the Syrian gentile who suffered from leprosy? This great man goes to the Israel court in search of the prophet Elisha. Naaman shows his credentials—a letter from the Syrian king and some precious gold and silver. Naaman wants to be cured from his disease. Elisha tells Naaman to wash in the Israeli river water seven times. Eventually, Naaman does this and he is cured of his leprosy. But why does Jesus recount this story about a gentile (2 Kings 5:1-14)? Were there not lepers in Israel? Why did Elisha, a man of God, not heal one of the lepers in Israel? Was Jesus intimating that God worked miracles not only for Jews, but even for gentiles, especially for gentiles, only for gentiles?
Jesus likens Himself to the revered prophets of Elijah and Elisha. Just as those two prophets had aided the widow and cured the leprous Naaman, both gentiles, so Jesus had worked miraculous cures for people in Capernaum, but not in his home town of Nazareth. The Nazarene synagogue erupted in fury; how could this Jesus equate Himself with Elijah and Elisha? How could the son of Joseph the local carpenter claim religious parity with the glorious sanctity of these Old Testament wonderful prophets?
“Let us throw Jesus off the cliff!” A murderous rage, a thirst for blood fired the mob. A crowd can be excited, even to seeking another’s life. During the early twentieth century, mobs cheered when one among them threw a hangman’s rope over an oak branch and there executed Negro citizens. We do not like such scenes, but they enter the history of this nation; they entered the history of Israel, for a crowd shouted for crucifying Jesus. In Nazareth, at this point, the crowd wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff.
But Jesus’ hour had not yet struck. “Passing through the midst of them, Jesus went his way.”
The people of Nazareth did not realize and refused to know that Jesus Christ has come for all people. Because Love embraces all His creatures,
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It does not seek its own interests,
It does not brood over injury,
But rejoices with the truth (I Corinthians 13:4-7).
The crowd at Nazareth could not endure Jesus likening Himself to Elijah and Elisha who, He reminded His fellow villagers, worked wonders for a gentile widow and a gentile soldier. Like those two Old Testament prophets who cured gentiles, Jesus had cured in Capernaum. In their jealousy, the Nazarenes resented that Jesus had worked no such wonders in His native Nazareth. They could not accept that like His heavenly Father, Jesus loved all people.
Shakespeare reminds us that all people in their life cycle go through seven stages. Everyone, you and I, we all recognize our cycles as we entrance and exit upon the stage of our time.
One man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven stages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
And then the justice [of the peace].
In the sixth age he seeks money and acts as though a teenager again. In the final act this actor returns to this second childhood, but with weak eyes and weak hearing and with everything weak. (As You Like It II, vii, 142-166)
Shakespeare has us realize that we all resemble one another. Vatican II reminds that St. Peter addressed a crowd. “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation everyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to [God].” (Cf. Lumen Gentium II, 9; Acts of Apostles 10:34-35).
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts, and they shall be my people…. For they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord” (As quoted in Lumen Gentium II, 9; Jeremiah 31: 31-34).
Sometimes we unthinkingly reserve Jesus for people like ourselves. We tend not to notice mental patients, the ill-formed, the person with a tin cup, a dirty beard, and stinking clothes. Today’s gospel speaks of all people, even about us gentiles.
Christ “is the image of the invisible God and in him all things came into being, things visible and invisible… all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).
Respect and care befit us, for all people bear about themselves the image of their creator! Amen!!