This weekend we are dealing with anger and frustration.
The beginning verse of today’s Gospel is the ending verse of last Sunday’s Gospel. We can still remember that Jesus preached in the synagogue of His hometown. He reveals to the people in His town that in Him Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)
After hearing all that he said, the people began to question his identity: his origin, his family, his educational background, his deeds, his wisdom, even his miracles and many more. And then, they got angry with Jesus and rejected Him as the Messiah because of what He said and did and because they knew Him so well.
I just wonder what made people so angry at Jesus: was it a case of judging a book by its cover? Was it because familiarity breeds contempt?
Jesus in his preaching today, challenges the listeners of his time with the message of inclusiveness. He talked about what happened during the time of Elijah and Elisha and people could not handle it. As Barclay, in his commentary on this Gospel passage, said that the Jews were so sure that they were God’s people that they utterly despised all others. And here was this young Jesus, whom they all knew, preaching about bringing the Good News of God to the gentiles and everyone who believes in it, will be saved.
The attitude of exclusivity makes people feel uncomfortable, angry with Jesus.
Even today, we find this attitude of exclusivity still exists among Christian Catholics. We hear many Catholics claiming proudly that they are members of a Catholic or religious organisation. That is great and there is nothing wrong with this claim, but it is wrong if we look at ourselves as better than them or above everyone else.
Pope Francis, from the very first day in office as the Pope, invites the Church to be inclusive. He invites people to live and practice the spirit of inclusion: ‘Ours must be a personal and collective commitment that cares for all our brothers and sisters who continue to suffer. A commitment that makes no distinction between natives and foreigners, between residents and guests, since it is a matter of a treasure we hold in common, from whose care and benefits no one should be excluded.” (Pope Francis)
Today, let us take time to reflect on how we can live the spirit of inclusiveness in our families, in our faith communities. As we start a new year as a community of faith, can we look at ways to feel comfortable with including a stranger in our circle of friends and our families? Or even, how can we accept others with their limitations and shortcomings into our lives?
May God always open our hearts to live the spirit of the Gospel with inclusiveness.
By Fr Trac Nguyen