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Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 4:21-30

No one likes to be deceived. We prefer the truth even though it is unpleasant. People are disturbed when told by their doctor that they have cancer, but it is even more disturbing to have cancer and to find out that the doctor did not tell you the truth.

But perhaps there is one kind of truth that we prefer not to hear, the truth that involves us making a complete change in our lives. There was once a lecturer who had a plaque on his door, 'My mind is made up. Please don’t confuse me with the facts.' Is this how most of us feel about this kind of truth?

Jesus encountered this attitude in Nazareth, His hometown. It was the Sabbath and, as was His custom, He went to the synagogue. His teaching was being well received, but then the mood turned from admiration to hostility. The change came when Jesus touched on this truth that nobody wanted to hear.

His words do not seem offensive to us but it did to His fellows Jews. All He did was to recall two incidents from Israeli history. One was from the life of Elijah. During his time there was a terrible drought. People were on the verge of starvation, especially widows and orphans, but God sent Elijah to the aid of only one widow and she was a Gentile. The other story was from the life of Elisha when leprosy was widespread, but God used Elisha to heal only one leper and he was a Gentile.

Jesus simply pointed out these two facts of history, but what angered the people was His apparent compliment to Gentiles. The Jews were so sure that they were God’s people that they utterly despised all other peoples. This way of thinking had been handed down from generation to generation. No one questioned it. In time of need God would come to their aid. In time of conflict, God was always at their side. They were God’s favourites and no one was going to tell them otherwise.

How could this Jesus preach that any Gentile was specially favoured by God? It dawned on them that Jesus was telling them their attitude of mind was wrong - and in this matter they had to change.

We have to be careful because we could have shut minds like those Jews. There are certain matters that we have figured out in our minds and we want to leave it that way.

What is worse is when we resent the truth that requires us to change the way we live. This is what Jesus wanted to correct. His purpose was not just to introduce radical ideas but to call on them to change. If it was true that God really cared for Gentiles, then it was incumbent upon God’s people to do the same. This was one thing those people in Nazareth were not prepared to do. The truth that calls for change is of the most unwelcome kind; we would rather deal with almost anything else. But if we are going to take Jesus seriously we have to be prepared to change our ways – and keep them under review.

Recall Jesus’ conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount. He ended with a story about two builders; one was foolish, the other was wise. One merely listened to the teachings of Jesus; the other, not only heard them, but put them into practice. Everything that Jesus taught is a call to action.

Holy Spirit, we may resent the truth that requires us to change but help us to understand and accept there is nothing that we need more to hear, if we are going to be followers of Christ.

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