Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hometown Decision

Have you ever heard of the phrase it’s a hometown decision? In contests or politics, hometown decisions mean that the decision was made in favor of the person who lives in that hometown because that person got the vote of his neighbors. But this is not the case in today’s Gospel for Jesus who visited his hometown, Nazareth.

Jesus said in Luke 4:24, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown."

In a cross reference (Matthew 13:57), it says: And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor."

In another version, Matthew 13:57 says: And so they rejected him. Jesus said to them, "A prophet is respected everywhere except in his own hometown and by his own family."

Why did Jesus say this? Is this true? If it’s true, what could be the reason? What is it about the prophets that make the people who are supposedly close to them reject the message they preach?

It said in the Gospel today (March 12, 2012) that Jesus taught in their synagogue and the people in his hometown were amazed. They wondered where He got His wisdom when they know Him as the carpenter’s son. Sometimes, when we are already familiar with someone, we think and feel we know them completely. Thus, when this person whom we are familiar with says something unusual, we get surprised and wonder why this person said what he said. That was what happened with Jesus. His neighbors found it unusual for Him to say such eloquent words in the synagogue when they think that He was just an ordinary person in their neighborhood.

What did Jesus say that offended his neighbors? Why did they get so furious to the point that they want to throw him off a cliff?

What He said insulted his neighbors because the Jews think they are the chosen race. They are proud of that heritage being sons and daughters of Abraham. They are proud to be following many laws in their church or synagogue. Thus, when Jesus honored the foreigners like the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian, they felt that Jesus was telling them that these foreigners were better than them when it comes to matters of faith. To hear those words from a fellow Jew was an outrage for them. "How dare he say those words to us when he is just one of our neighbors?" They might be thinking at that time. "How dare he insult us by saying that those foreigners who do not believe in the God we worship are better than us that is why miracles were performed for them? Since when did he get the authority to insult us when he is just the carpenter’s son?"

"Some of the things that Jesus said in His mission were quite inflammatory. Did Jesus want to be provocative? Quite unlikely, but one thing is sure. He was not willing to compromise the truth so He always spoke it as He saw it. The Church knows what doing this means and how the intellectuals of society will take it. However, this is a small price to pay for the truth. This is easy to say, yet far more difficult to be faithful to it." This was the commentary on the Gospel from Catholic Scripture Diary, Companion.

That is what the prophets and Jesus share in common. They are not willing to compromise the truth just to accommodate or please the people listening to them. They are not willing to water-down God’s Word to the people God sends them to just so these people would be more receptive of them and of the message they preach. They would rather be persecuted, stoned or crucified than give up the message God has planted in their hearts.

Jesus’ neighbors’ ask, "Where does he get his authority to speak to us in such manner?" The people who listened to the prophets long ago asked the same question. Some were completely clueless. Some knew in their hearts that the prophets’ authority came from God but their pride and weaknesses prevented them from acting on the message proclaimed to them. Some could not accept that God would speak through these people (the prophets and Jesus) because they think and feel that if God is to speak, why not to them? Aren’t they the teachers of the law? Aren’t they the elders in their church?

God, however, has a mysterious way of choosing His messengers. Often, he chooses the most unlikely, the ordinary, the poor and the young. As 1 Corinthians 1:27 says, "Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful."

Jesus’ neighbors especially the leaders in their church or synagogue thought that they are better than him because they were teachers of the law and some were older than him. They saw Jesus grow up to be a man and they saw nothing special about Him. They do not know and they have failed to recognize the hand of God the Father upon Jesus. They did not recognize that among them is not just an ordinary prophet but the Messiah they have been waiting for. They did not recognize Him because He was so ordinary looking. They felt that they already know Him and where He came from. But they are wrong, so wrong.

Let me quote what Jesus said to his disciples on why He uses parables to speak to the people:

The reason that I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand. So the prophecy of Isaiah applies to them: ‘This people will listen and listen, but not understand; they will look and look, but not see, because their minds are dull, and they have stopped up their ears and have closed their eyes. Otherwise, their eyes would see, their ears would hear, their minds would understand, and they would turn to me, says God, and I would heal them.’ (Matthew 13:13-15)
Can you relate with Jesus and the prophets? Are you experiencing a hometown decision now? Is it in your favor or not? Are there also people rising up against you because of the message that you proclaim? Fear not! Rejoice, for you are in good company, the prophets and the Messiah! Do you feel misunderstood? Do you feel terrified? Do you feel sad and alone?

Here is God’s message to you modern day messenger of God.

"How fortunate you are! Your eyes see and your ears hear." (Matthew 13:16)

"Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today… The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace." (Exodus 14:13-14)

"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6)

"Draw near to God." (James 4:8)

"If God is for us, who can be against us? … In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:31, 37)

"Fear not, for I am with you." (Philippians 4:5-6)

"Speak, and do not be silent; for I am with you." (Act 18:9-10)

When the apostle Paul faced the Roman tribunal, he said, "At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me… but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me." (2 Timothy 4:16-17)

Remind yourself that God stands by your side when you stand before an assembly that does not want to listen to you and rejects you and the message that you preach. Let God comfort you and strengthen you. Let God whisper in your ear what to do next. For though the voices of the crowd may be loud, the God who speaks to your heart will still have the final word. So boldly conquer as God’s anointed! Walk past them and walk towards your Jerusalem! Embrace your cross and follow Jesus’ footsteps. For as you follow Him to the cross, you also follow Him to His resurrection.

Our Father in heaven does not waste our tears and pains. He allows them and uses them for His purposes so that His glory would be evident in our lives and the choices that we make. May by the choices we make and our witness more hearts would turn to God. Not to us, not to us, but to God be glory!

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