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Jesus came to Nazareth and spoke in the synagogue, ‘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.
No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.
It is not uncommon for the clergy to witness the discomfort of faithful parishioners when asked about their churchgoing and other matters of faith. This often comes in the form of the vicar happening upon someone in a social setting and exchanging a simple greeting. Then, as the vicar moves on, he or she hears that person being interrogated about their faith and/or their connection to the Church. It is also not uncommon to hear a faithful parishioner ‘play down’ all that holy ‘stuff’. An opportunity to share the joy of the faith is thrown away because of feelings of embarrassment, or even fear. When nearest to home the prophet is silenced by scepticism and insecurity.
Because of the way we engage with scripture, we struggle to understand the word ‘prophet’. A prophet is someone who hears the word of God and passes it on to others. It is as simple as that. When we hear lofty and portentous words from the books of such prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel we develop notions that cut us off from God’s call to be prophets in our own times and communities. Even when we read the story of that most reluctant and human of prophets, Jonah, we focus on the fish rather than the effective prophecy.
Jesus makes it clear that he understands the problem: No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. Jesus understands because it happened to him. But, of course, there is a difference. Jesus did not obfuscate and prevaricate on matters of faith. Jesus stayed firm, even in the face of vehement opposition, just as we are called to stand firm.
In Lent we are called to pray, to fast, to serve and to prayerfully engage with scripture. This fourfold route map of faith is meant to draw us closer to God. Surely, as we draw closer to God, we want to share the joy and excitement of that experience! We may feel uncomfortable when challenged about our faith, but let us be resolved to be truly Christ-like as we live out our calling to faithful prophecy.