Mission - Mercy and Truth - Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Mission - Mercy and Truth - Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

This Gospel reading continues the reading we had last Sunday. It completes a particular episode. You may recall last Sunday's reading - Jesus after commencing his public ministry around the fishing villages on the shore of the Sea of Galilee returns to his home town, Nazareth. No doubt news of him had already reached his village - that he had begun a ministry of preaching and teaching, that extraordinary miracles had occurred. Perhaps this was why he was invited to preach at the Saturday morning Synagogue service.

We know this story well. That Jesus accepted their offer and when handed the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah found a particular reading and read it out. "the Spirit of the Lord is upon me .. he has sent me to bring good news to the poor ...."  Then following the reading he sat down. We are told that all eyes of the Synagogue were fixed on him in anticipation. He had chosen a reading. They waited for his comments. Then he said simply, "this text is being fulfilled even as you listen". Then he began to preach. Our Gospel today takes up what happened next.

We are told that the people were amazed as he spoke. He said some wonderful and inspiring things that moved them. They had not heard this sort of preaching before.

But then some began to voice resistance. Wait a minute - who is this guy? He is the son of the local carpenter. Where did he get all this stuff? Who does he think he is? Murmuring had begun. People started to query what he was saying. Doubts entered people's minds. They turned more to questioning his right to preach and stopped listening to what he was saying.

Clearly Jesus sensed this. He challenged them. His first reference was to a common saying: Physician heal thyself. In other words - don't tell us what to do, but look at yourself. This may have been because Jesus would have spoken about the Kingdom of God and restated his the theme of his preaching - repent for the Kingdom of God was close at hand. They resented him calling on them to correct their lives and their faith.

Secondly, he made reference to their knowledge of his miracles. Some were probably thinking if he can do miracles down in Capernaum then why is he not doing them here?  We want some proof that he can work miracles. 

In other words, the people of his home town became hypercritical and closed their minds. Jesus then challenged them by speaking about two stories from the Scriptures. Stories they would have known - one concerned the prophet Elijah and one his successor, Elisha. In both instances miracles were worked not among the Jewish people but to pagans.  This challenge infuriated them. They reacted and forced him out of the town.

This was the first sign that the ministry of Jesus would be a controversial one. Even his own village would reject him. Here, as an aside, I am wondering if his mother witnessed all this. I presume she did.

Jesus could have taken a softer path. He could have sought to go with the flow. On key issues the Lord could not compromise. He had a task. It was to proclaim a message of salvation which required a response of repentance and faith. His ministry clearly witnessed to the merciful love of God. He was particularly compassionate towards those who were poor and suffering. We can recall the words of Isaiah - I have come to bring good news to the poor.  I have come to heal the broken-hearted.

In the heart of Jesus is great mercy and a missionary endeavour. He will hold both in balance. Jesus will continue to manifest the merciful heart of the Father. He will fearlessly proclaim salvation found in embracing the life of the Kingdom of God.

This is also our task. Our work of evangelisation, our apostolic endeavours, are motivated always by love - by the love of God and a love towards those we serve. This love is expressed in the attitude of mercy we show to those we engage with. We are never judgemental or critical, we are not demanding, we never reject anyone who is far away. In our hearts is the merciful love of the Father towards all.

At the same time we do not back away from the truth. We are not ashamed of the Gospel. We do not accommodate false ideas. We present the full Christian truth and we are faithful advocates of the teaching of the Church. 

In being missionary disciples we have hearts full of love and mercy and we have minds dedicated to proclaiming the truth.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, January 24, 2016.