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Bulletin: January 30, 2022

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The "fulfilled in your hearing" statement of Jesus today is also the conclusion of last week's Gospel, with the words of Isaiah about the breadth of God's mercy and justice at its heart. The response of the crowd in the synagogue is united: all are amazed, but all likewise ask if he's not merely the son of Joseph the humble carpenter. Jesus calls them out for seeming to think that he ought to be doing his ministry only locally, and--selfishly--only for them. (After all, they know where he comes from!) When Jesus essentially replies "nope" through some proverbs and prophetic stories, all the crowd gets angry at his implication that the fulfillment in Jesus is for everyone, not just for them. When our "take care of your own" reflex kicks in, we would do well to recall that this isn't the attitude of Jesus, nor is it the attitude of his mission that we continue to this day.


The opening of the reading selected from Jeremiah is surely one of the most comforting in scripture. Imagine! God knew me before my bodily conception; God dedicated me before my birth or any human dedication rites; God appointed me a prophet! Then comes the uh-oh. Jeremiah is warned that his appointment as a prophet will bring opposition, against which God's prophets must stand up. Somehow the appointment as God's prophet seems like it should be a bit happier, with the glamor that we might think will come from having friends in high places. Yet, just as there are many forces in the world arrayed against the divine will and divine goodness, so too are they arrayed against God's prophets. A second round of assurances comes to Jeremiah, a pledge that God will be with Jeremiah to strengthen him. God doesn't promise a turmoil-free life, but does vow to be Jeremiah's strength.


In the synagogue at Nazareth, a similar turn of events takes place. When Jesus speaks of the Spirit's anointing being upon him, the anointing described in Isaiah, the crowd is amazed, and seems like they even want to take credit, since he's a local boy. Then Jesus speaks some words of tough love, and "local boy" pivots to "who does he think he is?" You couldn't blame Jesus, in that moment, if he recalled the words of Jeremiah, his prophetic ancestor. Though the crowd drove Jesus out of town and up a hill to throw him to his death, his time had not yet come. The strength and protection that God promises to prophets came for Jesus that day, as he passed through the mob's midst, unharmed. He passed through their midst to continue the work for which the Spirit had anointed him. For us who follow the prophetic heritage of Jesus this day, we've been warned. But we've also been assured of God's care.

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