Love and truth are two names for the same reality, two names of God.
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.—Luke 4:21-24
The Prophet Jeremiah seemed to be aware of his vocation at a very young age. He also recognized that the call to serve God as a prophet came from outside of himself. He was to follow a path that wasn’t of his own choosing or imagining. As we hear in the verses that are omitted from this Sunday’s First Reading, it was God who was calling the youth:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,before you were born I dedicated you,a prophet to the nations I appointed you.“Ah, Lord God!” I said,“I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”But the Lord answered me,Do not say, “I am too young.”To whomever I send you, you shall go;whatever I command you, you shall speak. ~Jeremiah 1:6-7
Scripture scholars point out that in Luke’s account of the annunciation, Jesus’ mission was proclaimed even before the Word took flesh in Mary’s womb (see Luke 1:31-33, 35). Like Jeremiah and the other prophets, Jesus was to spend himself in proclaiming the Reign of God for the sake of the poor and oppressed. In a sense, we might say that it was Jesus’ mission to turn the world “upside down,” making real the salvation about which Mary sang in her Magnificat (see Luke 1:50-55).
This overturning or reversing of expectations is a fundamental part of how St. Luke presents the Good News in his Gospel, as he demonstrates how Jesus fulfills the words from the Prophet Isaiah that formed part of last Sunday’s Gospel:
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captivesand recovery of sight to the blind,to let the oppressed go free,and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
While we can look back at the life and mission of Jesus and recognize how he fulfilled—and more than fulfilled—these promises, we also find a “reversal” in this Sunday’s story of the rejection Jesus experienced in Nazareth. Although Jesus had worked signs on behalf of the poor and humble of Capernaum, he was unable to perform signs for the sake of the people of Nazareth because they were unable to see him as being anything more than “the son of Joseph.”
As we continue to reflect on Who it is who was born for us in Christmas and revealed in the Epiphany mysteries of Magi, Baptism, and the wedding at Cana, this Sunday’s Gospel invites us to reflect on how open we are to allowing Jesus to do something new within us and for us.
One of the challenges that many Christians face is their certainty that they know Jesus and what his teachings mean. And yet, if we take the words of the Letter to the Hebrews to heart, we have to accept that the Word of God is truly “living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (4:12).
This means that while the truths of our Faith remain constant and true, we have to always be aware of how open we are to allowing the Word—to allowing Christ—to speak to us, calling us to something new, turning our world upside down.
As Cardinal Basil Hume reflected:
It is only gradually that the words of Scripture and of the Creed reveal something of their inner meaning. It is like the viewing of a landscape. The more we look the more we see… There is more merit in a step taken in the dark than one that costs no effort or pain when the way is clear. That can lead to the surrender of our minds to the truth we could not, unaided, discover for ourselves, and even when accepted cannot ever fully understand. This is the truth that he is both God and man, and this we must affirm; that is the beginning of a new journey into the mystery of God, a voyage of discovery as we go in search of truth.—from The Mystery of the Incarnation
The people of Nazareth were unable to accept that Jesus could possibly be more than they knew him to be. But their certitude prevented them from recognizing him as the gift that he was. This ultimately invites to consider how open we are to Mystery of who Jesus is and what his mission means for our lives.
How do you imagine you would have responded if you had been part of the crowd in Nazareth?When have you limited another person with your expectations of them or vision for what they should or should not do?How might your spiritual priorities and preferences be placing a limit on your ability to see God at work in your family, the Church, and the world?
Words of Wisdom: Jesus did not come to seek the agreement of men and women but rather — as he was to say to Pilate in the end — “to bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18:37). The true prophet does not obey others as he does God, and puts himself at the service of the truth, ready to pay in person. It is true that Jesus was a prophet of love, but love has a truth of its own. Indeed, love and truth are two names of the same reality, two names of God. —Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus on February 10, 2013