Luke’s Gospel begins the ministry of Jesus with his rejection in his hometown of Nazareth. Rejection is an important part of the mystery of his death and resurrection. Jesus lived most of his life in Nazareth among “his own.” (Luke 4,24-30) Yet, as he begins his ministry he is rejected by ” his own” in their synagogue, a rejection Jesus must have carried with him; how could he forget it?
Crowds welcoming him to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday call him “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee,” but not many from Nazareth accompanied him there. Some women from Galilee, most importantly his mother Mary, stand by his cross as he dies. Still, Jesus didn’t find much acceptance in Nazareth.. “He came to his own and his own received him not.”
The Cross on Calvary draws attention to the physical sufferings of Jesus in his passion–the scourging, the thorns, the crucifixion. But let’s not forget his interior sufferings, especially rejection from “his own,” who knew him from the beginning. Only a few followed him to Jerusalem.
The lenten gospels tell us rejection doesn’t stop God’s mercy and love. On Calvary Jesus shows God’s love in his outstretched arms.
We share in the great mystery of his death and resurrection. We may never be nailed to a cross as he was, but there are other ways to bear a cross. Rejection by “our own,” perhaps someone close to us, may be one way we share in the sufferings of Jesus.
Lord, help me face the slights the come from those close by, from my Nazareth, from “my own.” The mystery of your Cross is not played out on Calvary alone, It’s played out in places and people close by, where we live now. Give me the grace to live in my Nazareth as you did in yours.
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For two Sunday’s we have been reading the long account from St. Luke’s gospel of Jesus’ return to Nazareth, his hometown, as he begins his ministry in Galilee. I mentioned last week Luke’s interest in Jesus’ early life. More than any other evangelist, he writes about Jesus early years.
The four gospels take a dim view of Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus Christ. Early in his gospel, John says that Philip, one of Jesus’ first disciples, invited Nathaniel to meet “Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathaniel replies. (John 1,46).
The gospels of Mathew and Mark recall the sad rejection of Jesus by his hometown after his baptism by John the Baptist. Matthew places it after Jesus has spoken to a large crowd in parables. Then, he goes to Nazareth and speaks in the synagogue to his own townspeople, who are at first astonished at his wisdom, but they wonder where did “the carpenter’s son” get all this. They know his mother and his family, and they reject him. (Matthew 13,54-58)
Mark’s gospel puts the event after Jesus has raised a little girl from the dead. Going to Nazareth with his disciples, he’s greeted in the synagogue with astonishment because of his wisdom; they’ve heard of his mighty deeds, but then they ask where did this “carpenter” get all of this? He’s “Mary’s son” and they know his family. Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6,1-5)
In Luke’s gospel Jesus goes into the synagogue at Nazareth almost immediately after his baptism and reads from the Prophet Isaiah the passage: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; He has anointed me…” Jesus says he’s fulfilling the words of the prophet. He’s the Messiah.
In the reading today the people of Nazareth not only reject him but try to put him to death. They are people who have known him all his life, we presume even members of his family are among them.
Here is a concrete example of what’s said in another gospel: “He came to his own and his own received him not.” Of course, their reaction surprises us. How could they be so blind? How could they not see?
Our first reading today may offer some insight into their reaction. It’s about the Prophet Jeremiah who also met opposition from his own people and was put to death for his claims. Maybe he can help us understand what happened at Nazareth?
The prophet speaks for God. “Stand up and tell them what I command you,” God says to Jeremiah, “I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” But when God first calls him, Jeremiah shrinks from the task. ” Don’t send me, I’m just a child.” They know me too well; I
I don’t have the status, the aura of a prophet.
That seems to be what happened at Nazareth. They knew Jesus too well. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” They doubt, they want more proof. “The prophet is honored, except in his native place,” Jesus says,amazed at their unbelief.
The prophet speaks for God, but what God says through the prophet may not be to our liking. Sometimes it seems too good to be true. We’re cynical people. We think like human beings, not like God. Would God promise us a life beyond death, beyond suffering, beyond disappointment, beyond failure. Could God be the carpenter’s son? Could it be true,as the Letter to the Hebrews says, “In times past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets,but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son.” (Hebrews 1, 1-2) Could God so love the world that he would send his Son to bring us life?
Let’s not be too harsh with the people of Nazareth. When we are looking at them, we are looking at ourselves.
Let’s ask for faith, faith like Mary his mother had. Let’s ask that we listen to his words and believe in his promises. Let’s ask that we follow Jesus Christ in the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection, till he reveal himself to us and we share in his glory. Help us, Lord, to believe in you.
In the Mass for today, Luke’s Gospel brings us back to Nazareth, where Jesus lived most of his life among “his own.” But his own reject him at the beginning of his ministry in their synagogue. Their rejection surely hurt him; how could he forget it?
The crowds that welcome him to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday call him “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” Yet so few disciples from Nazareth seem to follow him; only a few women from there will stand by his cross as he dies. From what we know of Nazareth, Jesus did not find much acceptance there. “He came to his own and his own received him not.”
The Lenten Gospels prepare us for the great mystery of Jesus’ death and Resurrection by presenting him as one who took on himself our sorrows. They place before us the physical sorrows that come from the nails, the thorns, the scourging. But let’s not forget the interior sorrows Jesus experienced, the sorrow that his rejection at Nazareth brought to him, for example. It also was part of the mystery of his cross.
We may not experience the physical sorrows of Jesus, but we will inevitably experience interior sorrows like his. Rejection by our own, perhaps. There are many ways we share in the passion of Christ.
Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth:
“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.
Monday, 3rd week of Lent
The gospel from Luke brings us back to Nazareth, where Jesus lived most of his life among “his own.” Yet when he began his ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth, his own strongly reject him. It’s hard to see how Jesus would not carry the hurt of that rejection with him; how could he forget it?
According to Matthew’s gospel, the crowds that welcome him to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday call him “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” But few disciples from Nazareth follow him into Jerusalem; a couple of women from there will stand by his cross as he dies. From what we know of Nazareth and its subsequent history, Jesus did not find much acceptance there. “He came to his own and his own received him not.”
To prepare us to enter the great mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the lenten gospels help us understand the one who took on himself our sorrows. They also help us see what our own participation in that mystery will be like. Can rejection by our own be one of them?
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them,
thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore, I say to you,
the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,they feared the crowds,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
(Friday, 2nd week of lent)
In Matthew’s gospel, as Jesus enters Jerusalem before his death, a large crowd acclaims him as “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee” and spread their cloaks and branches before him. “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Then, Jesus goes into the temple and drives out those who were buying and selling there, a symbolic act that restores it as a place of prayer. (Matthew 21, 1-18)
The Jewish leaders react strongly, demanding to know by what authority he does these things. In response, Jesus accepts the testimony of the people; he has been sent by God. He is indeed the Son of David. But in the parable he directs to their leaders Jesus recognizes they will reject him, as others before them rejected prophets sent by God. They will put him to death.
All the gospels clearly state that Jesus saw himself as he does in this gospel passage. He knows he speaks in God’s name and the leaders of his people will reject him. Yet, the stone that the builders reject will become the cornerstone.
Still, the conviction Jesus has about his mission will not insulate him from the pain he will suffer from being rejected and from having the the truth he speaks denied. Like the prophets before him he will suffer greatly from rejection. This will be especially acute as the crowds that acclaimed him when he entered the city fall silent and his own disciples deny and abandon him. He then is alone.
This parable from Matthew helps us to understand what Jesus suffered when he is arrested and brought to die on a cross. Those who follow him will know that suffering too.