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Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Thess. 4:13-18 & Lk. 4:16-30

The Thessalonians were filled with sadness because some of them had died and would be deprived of sharing in the glory of Christ’s second coming. They had failed to understand that salvation meant Jesus Himself raising the dead - and it would not matter if they had already died before His second coming.

Paul wrote to them to clear up this matter. He assured them that salvation for those who follow Christ, whether living or dead, concerns not only the immortality of the soul, but the glorification of the body as well. Jesus died and was raised to fullness of life so we, too, will be raised on the last day.

Today's passage from the Gospel describes a dramatic moment in the earthly ministry of Jesus. He had toured many towns and villages, teaching and healing. News of His extraordinary power had spread throughout the countryside. 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.

Their approval was soon to turn to anger. 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 who 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. It is not meant to tear down but to build up. 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.

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