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When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.”’ And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
What makes you angry? Are you sensitive to harsh and critical words? Is your patience tested by selfish and indelicate behaviour? Are you enraged when you cannot get your own way or when others fail to see the ‘wisdom’ of your point of view?
How does your anger manifest itself? Do you scream and shout? Do you burst into tears? Do you become sullen and sulky? Do you harbour thoughts of revenge and violence?
Whatever angers you, and however that anger is expressed, you are not likely to be provoked to the point of killing someone … other than in your imaginations!
In today’s reading we hear of Jesus’ return to his home town. As was the custom, his attendance at the synagogue was marked by his being invited to read from scripture and then commenting upon the passage he had read. This is the moment in the narrative when he provoked an angry response. The one whom they had seen grow from childhood into manhood was making an amazing claim … he was claiming to be the one who fulfilled the greatest of prophecies. To those who revelled in their certainty, Jesus’ claim was too much to bear .. all in the synagogue were filled with rage.
In our churches I often encounter people who get ‘angry’. But, their anger is not often rooted in theological matters or the interpretation of scripture. Instead, their anger tends to be based on their inability to get their own way over superficial matters associated with the church building, financial management and the influence that they do or do not have over some social event. The message of the gospel and the mission of the Church rarely brings about any sort of emotional response.
This is a sorry state of affairs because it reveals a lack of engagement and understanding of the Good News that is Jesus Christ. Jesus regularly made people angry. Jesus was not afraid to preach and teach a new and exciting message that challenged the ‘certainty’ of those who considered themselves to be ‘wise’ in such matters. The challenge for us is to join Jesus in thinking the ‘unthinkable’ and living our lives in such a way that others become excited by our faith.
Let us pray that we might stop being angered by the superficial and focus our attention and our efforts on sharing the Good News of the Christian message. Let us pray for the humility to recognize and celebrate with those who are closest to God in their lives of prayer, love and service.