Homily for the fourth Sunday of the year - Year C - Lk. 4:21-30


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"In the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus began to say to them, 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.


"And they said, 'Is not this Joseph's son?' And he said to them, 'Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, "Physician, heal yourself"; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.' And he said, 'Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.'


"When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away."





Homily:


"In the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus began to say to them, 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth."


The Gospel for this fourth Sunday of the year follows what we were reading last Sunday: Jesus is in Nazareth, his hometown, and he preaches in the synagogue. What the Lord is saying truly strikes his listeners, so much so that they are very surprised at the discourse given by someone they had once known and who, now, appears to them as another man, a man unlike any other, a man who surpasses all others, for, in fact, he is at once God and man: "They wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth."


Jesus is God and man, and he who does not yet know this is surprised by the action - a mysterious action - which is effected when he hears him speak. Jesus is the very Word of God, the Son of the Father begotten from all eternity in the Holy Spirit, and thus Jesus is, as God, the very author of grace, which is the divine creation that allows a rational creature to enter into communion with the Creator. When the man Jesus speaks, the words he pronounces serve to communicate to his listeners the grace of which he is the author: he thus pronounces "gracious words".


"They said, 'Is not this Joseph's son?' And he said to them, 'Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, "Physician, heal yourself"; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.' "


The grace of God is almighty, and the words of grace that Jesus speaks to the inhabitants of his village truly have the power to convince everyone of this astounding fact: Jesus, one of their own, is not only man, but also, and first, God. However, a man, any man or woman, remains free with respect to the almighty grace of God: this is the Mystery of Love, this is the very Mystery of God! Now, Jesus knew in advance that the inhabitants of Nazareth would reject him, as Saint John wrote, speaking in a general manner: "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not." (Jn. 1:11)


This is why Jesus does not intend to perform any miracles in order to try to prove his divinity: a miracle is an exemption from the laws of nature, and God does not produce miracles in vain, for what he has created is good and perfect in itself, even if man and sin have corrupted this initial creation. Thus, Jesus will not perform the same miracles in Nazareth that he had in Capernaum. But there is more. Jesus, from the very start of his preaching, seems, to some extent, to want to leave aside his people, the Jewish People, in order to give a certain preference to the people of the pagan nations. This is what the continuation of his discourse leads us to think...


"But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian."


The Son of God came to earth and took on flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary in order to save all men. But who has the greatest need for salvation? Is it not those who do not yet have any link to God, the True, the Only? The Jewish People had been elected by God to be his People: already, the fact of being Jewish established in them a certain link to God, a link of the corporeal order. Furthermore, he who was not Jewish lacked this link. But when the Son of God came to earth, he brought with him grace, a created divine good, which was capable of establishing between God and any man or woman a link of the spiritual order. "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (Jn. 1:17)


In fact, the grace of God is destined for both the Jews and the pagan Nations. The first disciples of Christ, the Apostles, were all Jews. Jesus did not want to reject his People, but rather he wanted grace to dominate in them, he wanted the corporeal link they had with God to be dominated by a link of a higher order, a spiritual one, that of grace. If Elijah was sent to a widow of Zarephath, if Elisha cured Naaman the Syrian, it was to announce the coming of the long-hoped-for grace: that of the Messiah in person! Israel was being led by the Lord to understand that, from now on, spiritual grace was to dominate all that was corporeal in them.


"When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away."


"Alas!" Three times "Alas!" The inhabitants of Nazareth did not want the grace of God... Their conversion was not to take place at that time... And what about us, today? How would we react? Would we be ready to welcome the grace of God which would help us to detach ourselves from worldly goods, and especially from ourselves? Of course, we have already taken a few steps in this direction, but don't all the material things in our life count for too much in our sight? When the grace of God is offered to us, let us seize it! Let us fear that the grace of God may pass us by, never to return ... ever!


Let us ask the Most Holy Virgin Mary to lift up our spirit to the realities of heaven. May the Lord grant us his grace in order that we might grow in all the virtues, especially in those of faith, hope, and charity. The grace of God is almighty: in it lies OUR HOPE!



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