They rejected His authority to teach them
Last week (3rd Sunday) we reflected on the Christian reality that as the Spirit that anointed Jesus also anoints us, we become His Body. We’ve become the new people of God under Jesus who enjoy God’s favour and are to subject ourselves to the rule of the Spirit.
In today’s Gospel the Jews don’t take to Jesus in the same way. Rather, they reject his authority to teach them, providing a stumbling block in their relationship with their God. As Jesus challenges the communities status quo they fight him so to maintain their own world-view. Not wanting to listen, and not wanting to be challenged, the Jews try to put Jesus in a box to discredit and dismiss him. We know this guy, he is Joseph’s son. We’ve got his measure – is what they’re saying.
The crowd initially amazed at his gracious words turn against Jesus when his teaching challenged their ideas and convictions. More so, they knew they were the chosen people and to be given the stories of the prophets Elijah and Elisha going outside to pagan peoples to work the wonders of God was not pleasant to their hearing. In fact they were enraged as it implied that they, like Israel of past, had rejected a prophet of God in rejecting Jesus.
On this point Father Stephen E. Blaire recalls the great Church father, St. Cyril of Alexandria (4th century). St Cyril, who commented extensively on Luke’s Gospel, said that those who heard Jesus speak treated his words as worthless.
Father Stephen goes on to say, “I think the same happens today. When we hear words pleasing to us, we accept them, but when they disturb our consciences we might well dismiss them as worthless. There are people who choose a Church where they get good feelings from warm and fuzzy words. Certainly it is true that the Gospel is a great word of consolation and refreshment, but it can also be harsh and demanding, as Jesus himself could be harsh and demanding.”
I think Father Stephen’s point is valid. When we hear words pleasing to us, we accept them. But what happens when we hear a Gospel or Church teaching that is not pleasing and that challenges our opinions or convictions? Do we let our ideas or opinions get in our way with our relationship with God or are we open, submissive, and teachable? Would we also have dismissed Jesus like those in the Gospel?
What a change from last week when we heard Jesus proclaim the new people of God. Today we hear an unexpected twist to this Gospel passage so I don’t think we can presume to have accepted Jesus’ message if we were in their shoes. Rather, we need to pray through the Gospels recognising our own faults and weaknesses, allowing our biases/prejudices to be challenged by Jesus.