Saturday, February 2, 2013

A prophet to all the nations

In today’s gospel we hear the last line from last week’s gospel repeated: today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.  Every time I hear that passage I’m filled with a sense of awe.  Imagine being there, hearing the words of the prophet read by Jesus, imagine looking upon the Son of God and being there when he reveals to the world that he has come on a mission from God to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, a time of prosperity.  We almost expect everyone in the synagogue to stand up all at once, to start cheering, and to follow Jesus as his disciples.  Instead, Jesus is greeted with a terribly lukewarm reception: who does this guy think he is?  We know where he comes from, come on he’s no prophet…
We see in this story the prophet’s dilemma.  Called from among human beings, the prophet is called to speak on behalf of God to those same human beings.  This is a difficult and challenging thing to do.  I for one find it somewhat comforting to hear that even Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Word of the Father, was greeted with a lackluster, lukewarm kind of reception.  But, Jesus is not deterred.  He perseveres in his mission to proclaim the good news.
I think this story refers to each of us in a way.  First of all, what kind of reception do we give Jesus?  Is our response lukewarm?  When we hear the good news proclaimed to us, do we accept it as it is, the good news of our salvation? 
But, I think this passage might also encourage us as we live out our own prophetic calling.  I’m sure most of us do not remember, but on the day of our baptism we were anointed with Holy Chrism with the words: just as Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so may you live always as a member of his holy people, sharing everlasting life.  Everyone one of us is called to be a prophet.  If we do not tell the story of Jesus to others, no one will hear it.  Telling others about Jesus is a fundamental part of what it means to be Christian. 
But that gets me back to the reception that Jesus gets in the gospel story.  Even Jesus Christ himself received a lukewarm kind of reception, so we can expect the same thing.  Especially in today’s world, religion is something private and personal.  Not only might each of us be intimidated to share the faith with others, but most people do not want to hear about it.  It is perfectly fine for you to believe what you want, and it is fine for me to believe what I want, and neither one of us should talk to each other about what we believe.  But this individualism is not good for us, God saves us as a people, we are all the body of Christ and together, not individually, will we find salvation. 
So, how to be a prophet?  Look to the example of Jesus, he was undeterred, he was sure of himself and confident of his relationship with the Father.  Therefore, no matter what happened, he was able to continue in his mission.  We too should be confident in our relationship with God, and we should be sure of the teachings of our faith.  Being a prophet really begins with being a follower of Jesus, of welcoming him and his message into our lives, so that we can share it with others.
What a beautiful reading we have from St. Paul today.  Love is patient, love is kind.  In other words, Love is what Jesus shows us on the cross.  Jesus lays his life down for all of us, and he asks us to love others as he loved us.  Isn’t this a great message that our world needs to hear?  Namely, that the pathway to happiness not only in this life but in the life to come is found not in trying to grab and possess, but in giving of ourselves to others.  First, we must come to believe this message, then we live this message, then, undeterred, we will have the courage to share this message with others.

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