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Salvation of the World
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And he said, “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 Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.
Opening Prayer: Jesus, open my heart and speak to it with your Sacred Heart. Help me to understand your words of salvation that are meant for all people.
- Recognizing Christ: This Gospel passage takes place in Nazareth. These people had known Jesus his whole life, and here he was proclaiming himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, the “Anointed Bearer of Glad Tidings” (Isaiah 61:1-3). Notice that, at first, the crowd seemed to praise and accept him. But then they turned on him, concluding that he could not be who he said he was. They simply could not see past his familiar outward appearance. In short, they did not recognize him: “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world did not recognize him. He went to his own, and his own did not accept him” (John 1:10-11). Do we see and recognize Jesus as who he says he is: the Son of God, the Messiah, true God and true man? Jesus asked the disciples, “‘…who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:15-16). How do we live our lives as an expression of our belief in this truth?
- Ad Gentes: Jesus spoke of how God sent Elijah and Elisha to perform miracles to other nations, not to Israel. Sidon was a city in northern Israel, but it was never subdued by the tribes of Israel. In fact, it was an oppressor of Israel (Judges 1:31; 10:12). Syria took Israel by siege, captured the people, and took them into exile (2 Kings 17:6). These people Jesus used as examples were bitter enemies of his listeners, which gives us some context as to why they became hateful at the mention of their oppressors having a share in God’s goodness and mercy. In truth, the Gospel message is for all people in all places. It is the duty of the Church to witness to Christ ad gentes—to the nations. It is our missionary task and responsibility to both the Gospel and the world: “Missions is the term usually given to those particular undertakings by which the heralds of the Gospel, sent out by the Church and going forth into the whole world, carry out the task of preaching the Gospel and planting the Church among peoples or groups who do not yet believe in Christ” (Ad Gentes, 6). Do we truly believe that Jesus came for all people, even people who are different from ourselves, even our enemies?
- To the End of the Earth: The crowd here had preconceived notions that the Messiah would free Israel from its oppressors. Now, here was Jesus, the true Messiah, flipping that idea on its head. Jesus did so much more than secure political freedom for one set of people; he secured salvation, redemption, and freedom from the claims of sin for the whole world (Luke 3:4-6, Romans 5:18)! God chose Israel to be a holy example for the nations around them, to bless the whole world. But because of their disobedience, they could not bless others. Jesus fulfilled the role Israel was destined to complete but could not: “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). God desires the salvation of all people, not just those who have the blessing of a religious culture or upbringing: God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). How does this Scripture challenge you to consider more deeply your preconceived notions about God?
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, please give me a heart that desires the conversion and unity of all people. Help me discern how you are calling me to proclaim the Good News to others. Help me especially to be obedient to you so that I can truly be a light that attracts others to you. Shine in my heart, be my light, and lead me on despite the darkness that encompasses me. (Based on St. John Henry Newman’s meditations, “The Pillar of the Cloud” and “Jesus the Light of the Soul.”)
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace, I will prayerfully discern how God is calling me to aid the missionary work of the Church, be it through prayer, time, talent, or treasure.
For Further Reflection: Here are two important Church documents on the missionary character of the Church: the Vatican II decree Ad Gentes and the 1990 encyclical by St. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio.
Carey Boyzuck is a wife, mother, freelance writer, and lay member of Regnum Christi. She blogs at www.word-life-light.com.