At the trial of Jesus, Pilate asked the question: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied: “Yes, I am a King. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to My voice.” “Truth?”, said Pilate “What is truth?” Pilate didn’t want to face truth –and he didn’t want to accept truth.
Whether we like it or not, the truth is the truth. Reality and truth do not change simply because we close our eyes or our ears or our minds to it. Our obligation as human beings is to seek the truth because truth does not change. Unfortunately, because of Original Sin, we tend to filter out what we don’t want to hear and to amplify things that please us. This is the topic of the readings chosen for today’s Mass.
Our first reading recounts the call of Jeremiah. The Prophet was set apart as a witness to the truth – as spokesman for God. His call from God made him the conscience of Israel – even when it was unpopular. Quite often, the prophets were hated by the people and Jeremiah was to be hated more than most; yet he did not flinch in proclaiming the truth – calling the people of Israel back into relationship with God.
In the Second reading, Paul reminds us that we are to proclaim and live the truth because of the love of God. The setting for the Gospel today is the continuation of last week’s Gospel. Jesus entered Nazareth and went directly to the Synagogue – the place for prayer, instruction and gathering for Jews. God was worshipped there, the scriptures were explained, and the Jews renewed their identity as the People of God.
Every town had a synagogue, and members of the congregation or invited guests would conduct the service. Jesus was invited to speak! The prophecy of Isaiah was handed to Him and He read this passage: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”
Scripture tells us: “Rolling up the scroll, He gave it to the assistant and sat down. Then He began by saying: Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The Gospel goes on to tell us that the people were spellbound by His teaching. They spoke favorably of Him. Jesus was saying things the congregation wanted to hear; in fact they wanted to hear even more from this great preacher who was thinking like them.
- They had never heard anyone speak as he was speaking.
- Unlike the scribes, the official teachers of the Torah, Jesus was not obscure.
- People wanted answers, and He was giving them answers.
- He was immediately recognized as one who speaks with authority and power.
- He spoke with even more authority than the prophets who had become the conscience of Israel.
When He finished reading from Isaiah, He began teaching by saying: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” I am the one Isaiah is talking about! As He continued to speak, the congregations’ mood changed drastically. Jesus was saying things the people didn’t want to hear. Jesus was saying things that contradicted their thinking.
Jesus reminded the congregation that no prophet was accepted in his home territory. He spoke of Elijah who didn’t help any Jewish widows, but performed a miracle for a Gentile widow – because of her Faith. He spoke of Elisha who did not cure any Jewish lepers, but only a Gentile leper – because of his faith.
The audience immediately turned on Him: they were enraged! They expelled Him from the town and intended to throw Him over the edge of the mountain on which the town had been built.
The problem the people had with Jesus that day, was that they would not accept the fact that Jesus was proclaiming salvation, freedom and God’s love for all people – not just for the Jews. The people were angry at the message of Jesus.
Our world is growing more – and – more like the people of Nazareth with a “new kind of thinking” which rejects traditional moral values. Today, we are called upon to hear again the message of the Gospel and renew our commitment to live and proclaim the truth of that Gospel.
Each of us is called upon to share in the prophetic ministry of Jesus Christ. We are called upon to teach and preach by our words and more importantly by our deeds. In these days when authority and morality are questioned at all levels, the Lord is calling us to be spellbound by his authority and teaching and by the authority that He has given to His Church.
If you want the answers to the serious moral questions that plague our world today – then listen again to what Jesus Christ is and has been saying – and continues to say through His Church.
With the people in the synagogue of Nazareth, we need to be spellbound by the teaching and authority of Jesus Christ and His Church. We are called upon to live that faith, fully and completely and once again become spellbound by Jesus Christ and His Church.