Sunday Gospel Luke 4:21-30
THE gospel reading this Sunday is taken from the gospel of Luke. The focus of the gospel is Jesus the forgiving savior, whose mercy and compassion reaches out to all on the margins. For Luke, the emphasis is on the inclusiveness of Jesus, his appeal to men and women, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles. Jesus is the faithful companion who demonstrates and inspires compassion, a man whose touch is as powerful as his words. He gives attention to persons normally rejected or ignored in his community - the poor and lowly, sick and sinners, woman and children, Samaritan and Gentiles.
This is why Luke’s gospel is known as the “gospel of the poor,” which is the inspiration of the value of taking “the option for the poor.” We find this in Mary’s Magnificat, where she sings about a God who “has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty,”(Lk 1:52-53).
Now the incident mentioned in the gospel today where Jesus preaches and is rejected in Nazareth (4:14-30) only appears in the gospel of Luke but not in the other gospels. Here Jesus mentioned two persons Naaman and the widow of Zarepath. Naaman was a Syrian officer but suffered from a skin disease and the other one was a woman and a widow from a Sidonian town. Jesus mentioning them meant that God looks after and saves the people who are considered by others as unworthy of salvation.
We find the same persons deemed unworthy of saving or redeeming today - in the person of drugs addicts (mostly young and poor) and 12 year-old children. Today if you are a drug addict you are worth nothing - a burden to society. Children as young as 12 years old can now be prosecuted and jailed if a bill lowering the age of criminal liability is passed. Children in conflict with the law are victims of circumstances. They need help not condemnation.
In our first reading the prophet Jeremiah wrote about how God spoke to him, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.’
Every person, every child is personally formed by God - He knows each one of us even before each one of us was born. We are consecrated. We are in God’s eyes worth saving.
Paul has been given the title “the Apostle of love.” He has attributed a lot to love outweighing other virtues and things. He wrote, “And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing,” (1 Corinthians 13:2). Even to the end of the same chapter he continued, “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love,” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
In other writings of Paul, he continues to invite his readers to go beyond and seek love - in Ephesians (3:19), he encourages them “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” But he challenges us to go beyond mere knowledge of the love of Christ. He calls us to build up the community of believers—the Church, the body of Christ—through love, which he calls the ‘bond of perfection’ in Colossians 3:14. This is his invitation for us to “live in love” (Ephesians 5:2).
But this invitation to love through the example of Jesus in the gospel of Luke is inclusive. It does not choose or discriminates. It is God’s universal love for all. God is the Father of drug addicts and 12 year-old children. He invites us too to see them with his own eyes - with eyes of faith, hope and love.
I leave with just one question, how do you practice love today?