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CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM IS GOOD FOR US!

Father Francis's picture
Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

1 Cor. 2:1-5 & Lk. 4:16-30

In his preaching Saint Paul did not resort to the philosophical rhetoric of his day. He was but a tent maker who spoke a simple message relying on the power of the Spirit, not human ingenuity. The result was that some of the Corinthians were not prepared to accept him. They would have preferred flowery language.

Perhaps there are times when Christ's message is becoming too ordinary for us because we have heard the readings at Mass so many times and they have become too familiar. How can we keep the message fresh? If we had a missal, then before Mass we could study the readings, thinking very carefully about the words and their meaning. Why not start doing that from today. I think we could all benefit from spending a little time meditating on the simple and well-known words of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit will surely guide us if we ask Him.

Today's passage from the Gospel describes a dramatic moment in the earthly ministry of Jesus. News of His extraordinary power had spread. Everywhere He went He was greeted by eager crowds. He had yet to visit Nazareth, the town where He had lived for 30 years, but finally He came home to preach, to His former friends and neighbours. The synagogue was jammed with people when He read from the prophet Isaiah: they were charmed with His eloquence and eager to see if He would work any miracles.

But Jesus refused because He knew they would not accept Him as their Messiah - they knew Him too well for Him to be special in their eyes. He reminded them of the prophet Elijah who had tried to preach to his own people and found himself rejected and ignored, before God sent him to a Gentile widow who recognised him as a holy man and was willing to share with him the last of her food. Her generosity and faith were rewarded: she and her son were fed throughout the famine. Jesus recalled also the Syrian, Naaman, who alone was cured of leprosy because of his faith.

These stories were familiar to the people of Nazareth who came to the conclusion that Jesus was criticising them for lack of faith. They were furious. What angered them particularly was the suggestion that non-Jewish people might be more faithful and more deserving of God's favour. In fact, they were so mad with Jesus that they drove Him out of the town – and even tried to throw Him over the cliff!

Nobody likes to hear criticism. The sharper it is, the greater the anger in response. None of us likes other people to point out our faults and failings. But constructive criticism is good for us. Certainly this would be true of whatever Jesus said or did because He is God and cannot be wrong. The people who listened to Him needed to be told of their lack of faith. We will never learn to improve in anything we do if we cannot take criticism, whether artist or athlete, student or scholar.

Lord Jesus, we need to realise that constructive criticism is good for us because it stops us from being complacent, prompts us to weigh up our present situation and helps us to identify how we can better ourselves for the benefit of the people around us.

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