Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle C

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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 Luke 4:21-30

“No prophet is ever accepted in his own country”

Today’s Gospel reading picks up the concluding verses of last week’s episode – Jesus had won the approval of the people who were deeply moved “by the gracious words that came from his lips”. Then comes a violent change of attitude – we know this man; he’s only the carpenter’s son. How can someone like him be a prophet? Who does he think he is? Surely God’s truth cannot come through someone like this? Does he think God might speak through a lowly carpenter? Their familiarity prevents them from taking him seriously.

 Initial dismissal turns to rejection and then grows into angry opposition, especially when Jesus speaks about Elijah and Elisha. He reminds his audience that God’s saving power has already reached out to pagans, since these two great prophets of old had each been directed to pagan outsiders, people despised by members of the chosen race. The implication was quite clear – the Jews may be God’s Chosen People but God’s grace is not their exclusive possession, the sole right of a chosen elite; it is for people of all races, nations, backgrounds, in short for pagans. At this challenge to their religious self-understanding the people were furious and “hustled him out of the town”.

The townsfolk of Nazareth have not been the only people to try to claim a monopoly on God’s grace and truth; even the followers of Jesus himself have at times claimed exclusive possession of grace! But the good news proclaimed by Jesus is for people of all races, cultures and times. The good news is inclusive of all, an expression of the open and far-reaching, unconditional love of the Father. That God will not be tied down by people’s small-mindedness is to become increasingly evident in the way Jesus will conduct his ministry, in his constant outreach to the poor, the oppressed, the sinner and the outcast, the marginalised and the foreigner. He is the living sign of God’s universal love.