Sunday reflection: Luke 4:21–30

posted at 11:31 am on January 31, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here.  For previous Green Room entries, click here.

This morning’s Gospel reading is Luke 4:21–30:

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

A prophet is not without honor, but in his home town. Today we pick up where we left off last week, where Jesus declares the prophet Isaiah’s message fulfilled and salvation to be at hand. One might expect that the people of Israel would rejoice at this, but they are blinded by what they think they know, and more importantly, who they think they know. And as Jesus reminds them, it’s not for the first time, either.

Take Jeremiah, from whose prophesying comes our first reading today. Jeremiah recounts the word of the Lord given to him as the city of Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. He reminds the Judeans that the Lord will remain with them if they stay true to their covenant, but the powers of Jerusalem do not want to hear it. God tells Jeremiah to fortify himself and stand up to “Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people” who authored the disastrous fall of Jerusalem. Jeremiah is abandoned by all but the Lord Himself, but as Jeremiah recounts, that is all that is necessary.

So it was for prophets before Jeremiah, and after him as well. Jesus reminds the gathered men in the Nazareth synagogue of this unfortunate history of the Israelites scorning the prophets who carried God’s word to them, and the consequences of that rejection. The Lord worked His miracles outside of Israel and Judah to show His power and mercy. Jesus knows that the men will demand a test, a proof of what Jesus claims, but Jesus intends to teach them the same lesson God taught the Israelites in the times of Elijah and Elisha — that without faithfulness to the Lord, we have no right to test His faithfulness to us.

At the same time, the final prophet is proving Jesus’ point. John the Baptist heralds the coming of Jesus and salvation for Israel, Judah, and the whole world, and some of the people rejoice and prepare for His coming. The powers of the region — specifically Herod Antipas and his allies in Judah — are not nearly as enthusiastic. When John the Baptist warns Herod to repent of his enormous sins, Herod casts him down into prison, and eventually beheads him to satisfy his lust.

Needless to say, those in the synagogue do not take Jesus’ prophesying well. They attempt to cast Him off of the ridge on which Nazareth sits to His death, but Jesus eludes them and passes out of Nazareth to fulfill His mission elsewhere — exactly as He warned them.

Let’s get back to why this happens. It’s a pattern, but why does it arise? Why do people not listen to Hosea, for instance, who lived his life as an example of the rejection of the Lord by an unfaithful spouse? Or Elisha, Elijah, Jeremiah, and so on? Perhaps another pattern can be recognized in the form of another old saying: familiarity breeds contempt. People knew these men or assumed they did, saw the perceived flaws that allowed them to pigeonhole each as unworthy to claim the status of prophet in some fashion. That is why Jesus’ observation that prophets are without honor in their hometown rings so true to this day.

Even that comes from a deeper impulse. The prophets called the people to repent of their sins, mend their ways, and recognize that they lived in sin. Few people want to hear that, and fewer still want to have those sins pointed out specifically and publicly. Herod Antipas is just the clearest and most specific example of this phenomenon. The Israelites throughout their history had to experience destruction and enslavement to recognize their sin and hearken to the call of the prophets in order to return to the path of salvation — usually long after those prophets had died or been killed for their efforts.

However, we can see in this a greater pattern, one that expresses God’s love for His children. The prophets who served the Lord in many cases came to bitter ends, but persevered nonetheless to act as instruments of His will. In retrospect, the children of the Lord came to recognize their ministries and understood them to be prophets; we still hear from them to this day in our Scriptures. Death did not keep the people from the promise of salvation.

In Jesus Christ, we see the greatest example of this. He came to call everyone to repentance through Him in a backwater of a sprawling empire, the mightiest the world had seen at that time. His own people betrayed Him and gave Him up to their oppressors to be put to death. Jesus conquered death as the clearest sign of God’s love, better expressed in the Latin caritas or the Greek agape. The Lord wishes to redeem His spouse, the Body of Christ, in the marital covenant promised since the exile from the Garden of Eden — and to which the prophets attest repeatedly.

Consider this in light of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in a passage most often heard at weddings. Paul writes this as guidance to the church in Corinth, which were undergoing a number of trials, but this best describes the Lord’s eternal relationship with us:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Love never fails. This is the message of the prophets; it is the message of the Gospels. Even in Nazareth, where repentance and introspection get discarded for anger and retribution, the light of Christ will lead people back to their faithful union with the Lord. God does not brood over injury or rejoice over wrongdoing but eternally hopes in our return to Him through our own free will, for our sake. That is the love, or caritas or agape, to which we are called, and which brings us closest to God.


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Comments

Thank you, Ed.

Mason on January 31, 2016 at 11:49 AM

A prophet is not without honor, save in his home and among his people.

Albert Jay Nock was right.

gryphon202 on January 31, 2016 at 11:54 AM

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

proverbs427 on January 31, 2016 at 12:11 PM

Good effort as always Ed. I routinely enjoy your encouraging words….

Indiana Jim on January 31, 2016 at 12:13 PM

…Thank you Ed…I appreciate these pieces of tranquility on Sunday.

JugEarsButtHurt on January 31, 2016 at 1:33 PM

“I appreciate these pieces of tranquility on Sunday” – JugEarsButtHurt

Amen!

I look for them early each Sunday, before the comment section gets hijacked and becomes quarrelsome. ;)

Magnolia on January 31, 2016 at 1:39 PM

Love never fails. This is the message of the prophets; it is the message of the Gospels.

Ed, seriously, not to be *ahem* quarrelsome, but this is what you got from that passage?

Cleombrotus on January 31, 2016 at 3:31 PM

Thank you, Ed. Beautifully written; and quite inspirational.

Solaratov on January 31, 2016 at 3:54 PM

Has the Catholic Church made changes to mass recently?

My mother was complaining this morning that it is now in the wrong order.

agmartin on January 31, 2016 at 3:57 PM

Nice write up, Ed. I enjoyed it.

Maybe all prophets are afflicted similarly. I recall something about Casandra and a box.

dogsoldier on January 31, 2016 at 3:57 PM

Good take on this Ed, as always, Thanks.
-The Prophetic transforms for us into the Apostolic.

FlaMurph on January 31, 2016 at 4:20 PM

Thanks, Ed. Blessings!

OmahaConservative on January 31, 2016 at 4:28 PM

A prophet is not without honor, save in his home and among his people.

Albert Jay Nock was right.

gryphon202 on January 31, 2016 at 11:54 AM

Someone (you?) posted this link several months ago. I had it bookmarked, but that computer crashed.

I have searched several times for it to no avail.

Thank you so much for posting it. (Again?)

IDontCair on January 31, 2016 at 5:26 PM

Has the Catholic Church made changes to mass recently?

My mother was complaining this morning that it is now in the wrong order.

agmartin on January 31, 2016 at 3:57 PM

Well, if your mom hasn’t attended since 2011, she has a point, so to speak.

http://catholicism.about.com/od/worship/a/The-New-Translation-Of-The-Mass.htm

It sounded weird to me too until I cracked open my 1950’s era St. Joseph’s Missal and looked at the Latin and English side by side. The “new” Mass is far closer to a direct translation of the traditional (Tridentine) Mass in Latin than the one we have been using (Paul VI’s post-Vatican Council Mass).

That said, if you used to just turn your mind off and use your mouth to say the prayers and responses, you are in for a bit of a surprise.

Personally, I love the Mass in Latin. I’ve heard it here, and in Japan, and in both cases, the only place where a foreigner would be left out was during the homily and the readings from Scripture. But the order of worship was consistent everywhere else. We have shifted, for better or for worse, to a Mass offered in the vernacular — the language of the people. And these minor corrections bring us back to some of our roots.

unclesmrgol on January 31, 2016 at 6:52 PM

A prophet is not without honor, save in his home and among his people.

Albert Jay Nock was right.

gryphon202 on January 31, 2016 at 11:54 AM

The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either the latter.

I submit that the message of the Gospel is so straightforward that those of even sub-average intellect can comprehend. It is the putting into effect which is so difficult, for it involves a deliberate suppression of self to do.

Ed, seriously, not to be *ahem* quarrelsome, but this is what you got from that passage?

Cleombrotus on January 31, 2016 at 3:31 PM

The nature of the described love is that it is extended toward other-than-self. Indeed, Ed renders the love of which he speaks as caritas or agape, both of which translate to this kind of love. The Latin caritas is used this way not only in ecclesiastical Latin but in silver age Latin as well, where it might translate to “a love of country which causes one to give one’s life for one’s peers” or “the emotion which parents feel for their children”

In modern English, we call this charity.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Here’s one definiton:

CHARITY. The infused supernatural virtue by which a person loves God above all things for his own sake, and loves others for God’s sake. It is a virtue based on divine faith or in belief in God’s revealed truth, and is not acquired by mere human effort. It can be conferred only by divine grace. Because it is infused along with sanctifying grace, it is frequently identified with the state of grace. Therefore, a person who has lost the supernatural virtue of charity has lost the state of grace, although he may still possess the virtues of hope and faith.

Perhaps it’s Ed’s not mentioning hope and faith which trouble you. I have a wee bit of trouble myself with how hope, love, and faith intertwine, but I certainly think that if one loves God wholly, everything else must be there too.

Caritas patiens est, benigna est caritas, non aemulatur, non agit superbe, non inflatur, non est ambitiosa, non quaerit, quae sua sunt, non irritatur, non cogitat malum, 6 non gaudet super iniquitatem, congaudet autem veritati; omnia suffert, omnia credit, omnia sperat, omnia sustinet.

“Love never fails” is rendered in the Vulgate as “It sustains everything.” Hmm.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

unclesmrgol on January 31, 2016 at 7:32 PM

Very nice thread Ed

DarkCurrent on January 31, 2016 at 8:43 PM

Consider this in light of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in a passage most often heard at weddings.

Is that First Corinthians or One Corinthians?
;)

AesopFan on January 31, 2016 at 9:17 PM

A prophet is not without honor, save in his home and among his people.

Albert Jay Nock was right.

gryphon202 on January 31, 2016 at 11:54 AM

Excellent.

AesopFan on January 31, 2016 at 9:47 PM

Perhaps it’s Ed’s not mentioning hope and faith which trouble you.

unclesmrgol on January 31, 2016 at 7:32PM

Um….no.

Cleombrotus on January 31, 2016 at 10:31 PM

Um….no.

Cleombrotus on January 31, 2016 at 10:31 PM

Well…out with it! I thought you were saying that Ed somehow went off the rails or wasn’t seeing the entire picture with his commentary, and I was hoping you’d shed some light on that.

There is an aid priests to prepare sermons for each day, and this is what the guide I have from the Dominicans says:

The Christian call to love is inseparably connected to truth; to lead others to truth is a profound form of loving them.

Part of love is to speak truth to falsehood — to confront and correct, in a brotherly fashion, wrong. That was what Jesus was about in the synagogue, reminding the Chosen that, more than once, God has turned from them due to their own acts or failures to act. He was demanding radical change.

And part of that radical change would be first to acknowledge his authority in describing the nature of the change necessary.

They weren’t up to it on that particular Sabbath.

unclesmrgol on January 31, 2016 at 11:41 PM

unclesmrgol on January 31, 2016 at 7:32 PM

Many a football fan would probably like to know when the words “might not” began to appear in your 3:16 version.
Doesn’t sound too certain or “promising” to the ear.
Just wondering.

FlaMurph on February 1, 2016 at 12:05 AM

Well…out with it!

unclesmrgol on January 31, 2016 at 11:41 PM

There seems to me to be almost a knee jerk reaction these days amongst Christians, particularly here in America, to automatically interpret anything in the Gospels having to do with Christ in terms of His “love”. In terms of His love, exclusively, to the point of sentimentality and to the point of the exclusion, ignoring,or otherwise obscuring of His many other attributes and teachings.

Speaking strictly for myself, I have seldom met a Christian who really seems to understand or exhibit in their person and in their behavior just what Biblical “love” really is.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I know scores of really, really, really NICE, Christian men and women. But nice isn’t exactly love.

In 2 Peter 1, there is a long list of characteristics identifying the Christian life and at the very end of it is the final arrival at “love”. The impulse of the modern day Western Christian is to ignore or otherwise misunderstand these other attributes which are equally important in the acquiring of the ultimate characteristic of the ideal Christian life and the consequence of doing this is producing an awful lot of ineffective and unfruitful Christian lives who mistake sentimentality for love.

This is what bothers me about Ed’s commentary.

The message of the prophets was “love”? Seriously? Is that what Christ told them it was?

Cleombrotus on February 1, 2016 at 7:27 AM

This is what bothers me about Ed’s commentary.

The message of the prophets was “love”? Seriously? Is that what Christ told them it was?

Cleombrotus on February 1, 2016 at 7:27 AM

But true love is telling someone they are wrong in their ways. True love is honest about their conditions, even if they don’t see it or react poorly. The prophets were spreading God’s love. God was loving them by giving them multiple chances to repent instead of, rightfully, wiping them out. Part of God’s love is His mercy.

I am grateful for this kind of love being shown to me and for God allowing me to show it to others, even when it wasn’t pleasant. I can reflect now and see that it was for my good and I would have benefited had I listened earlier.

Indefatigable on February 1, 2016 at 8:41 AM

Indefatigable on February 1, 2016 at 8:41 AM

My point is that, by focusing on the aspect of love to the exclusivity of any other consideration, you miss the message.

Love without wisdom is merely sentimentality.

Cleombrotus on February 1, 2016 at 10:19 AM

Here’s one definiton:

CHARITY. The infused supernatural virtue by which a person loves God above all things for his own sake, and loves others for God’s sake. It is a virtue based on divine faith or in belief in God’s revealed truth, and is not acquired by mere human effort. It can be conferred only by divine grace. Because it is infused along with sanctifying grace, it is frequently identified with the state of grace. Therefore, a person who has lost the supernatural virtue of charity has lost the state of grace, although he may still possess the virtues of hope and faith.

unclesmrgol on January 31, 2016 at 7:32 PM

Thank you for adding this insight. When we remember that James had sent the apostles out from Jerusalem to collect a love offering for the believing Jews who were being persecuted in Jerusalem, we see that Paul is kind of chastising the Corinthian believers for being stingy with their giving. The majority text for 1 Cor 13 reads this way:

1Co 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
1Co 13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
1Co 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
1Co 13:4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
1Co 13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
1Co 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
1Co 13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
1Co 13:8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
1Co 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
1Co 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
1Co 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
1Co 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1Co 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

tiptopsaidhe on February 1, 2016 at 4:51 PM

Today’s reading from Luke is a significant one. When Jesus announced Himself as Messiah in Luke 4:21, it marked the end of the 483 years from the time of Cyrus’ decree (457 BCE; Ezra 3:1-6) until the coming of Messiah in 27CE, on the first day of the 7th month.

Dan 9:25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

And so, today’s reading marks the beginning of Daniels 70th week in prophecy. The “1335 days” prophecy began at Luke 4:18, (Feast of Trumpets), 27 CE, and ended with the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples of Jesus on the 8th day of the 3rd month (Pentecost) 31 CE. The “1290 days” prophecy” is the “Wave-sheaf” offering of Jesus to the Father as the first fruits at his ascension until Stephen is stoned, marking the first time blood is shed in Christ’s name since His crucifixion (the abomination of desolation). It ends the “safe” period of Rev 12:13-17 of time, times, and half a time. God offered the new covenant exclusively to the Jews for a period of 7 years, 3.5 while Jesus preached and 3.5 through the disciples until Stephen’s death, then the gospel went out to the Samaritans and then the Gentiles in Acts 10.

Dan 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
Dan 9:27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

In the middle of that 7 year period from Luke 4:21 until Stephen is stoned, Messiah is cut off (crucified) as the final sacrifice ever required by God…”he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease.”

We can’t lose sight of what was to be fulfilled in Daniel’s prophecy of Chap 9. Looking back to Dan 9:24, we see that God accomplished, in Christ, what He said would take 70 weeks (490 years) to accomplish:

Dan 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, 1) to finish the transgression, and 2) to make an end of sins, and 3) to make reconciliation for iniquity, and 4) to bring in everlasting righteousness, and 5) to seal up the vision and prophecy, and 6) to anoint the most Holy.

tiptopsaidhe on February 1, 2016 at 6:07 PM

Thank you for adding this insight…….
……..we see that Paul is kind of chastising the Corinthian believers for being stingy with their giving. The majority text for 1 Cor 13 reads this way:

tiptopsaidhe on February 1, 2016 at 4:51 PM

Every time I “sentimentally” look upon the lovely framed “Love is Patient” needle point hanging on the wall, I just shrug. And yes, while “Charity” is the true older older documented translation- it still isn’t accurate as it needs to be understood today.
Paul was writing the Church in Corinth to basically clean up their act as word got back to him that his Corinth Church he founded was in disarray. Go figure. He wasn’t addressing their giving or stinginess- by using the word “Charity” as it implies in today’s language-as that would also obviously contradict 13:3-

1Co 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
.

Here Paul would then be saying, “even if I gave all my things away Charitably- but I don’t have Charity(?) it’s no good.” So we know the use of Charity here HAS to mean something other than what we assume…….something greater.

The Greek to Latin translation is part of the problem….the translation game. The Greeks had 4 different forms of Love that each had their own meaning. Understandably, the Roman language did not match up well with these Greek Love forms- and they were probably more keyed in on the eros form of Love anyway-but that’s not what Paul had in mind. The original Greek word Paul used was Agaph- (Agape) But not having an exact Latin equivalent, “caritas” was used in translating Agaph- and later the now misunderstood “Charity” was put in its place- then just simplified into the modern quotable, emotional sentimentality – “Love is…..”

But that’s the tragedy- for what was replaced is incredibly more profound. Not that easy to read needle point isn’t a nice motivational -but it robs us of something way more important.

Review snippets of C.S. Lewis, on the love form Agape- from his book about these ancient Four Loves:

Agape, that deep, unconditional Gift-love that God has for us and that subdues and completes, and lifts up all the other loves. Agape Love demands that we give our will to God, for we cannot serve two masters without hating one of them. We do not give our will to God because he needs it—God needs nothing, so his love for us is entirely for us: we are God’s beloved. And in God’s great Love, we will be given back the “us” that we had given to God, so that in abandoning our will in God’s Love, we gain so much more of who we are.

C.S. Lewis believed that (agape) love is not primarily a matter of feeling but of will. Obviously, it would be ideal if both duty and desire are fully present in our emotional and spiritual life. But we need to remember that love is commanded. We are obliged to love whether we like it or not. Thus Lewis says, “Christian love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will.” In another place, Lewis amplifies this thought further, “Love in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people.” It is good to have the feelings as well. Lewis says about the affections that, “if they ever also play their part, so much the better.”

.
Kind of gives a new perspective on what is patient, what is kind. So now when we read….. “Love never Fails” ……..it does become less accurate, if not totally arbitrary to its earlier verse:

8 Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed.

So a Fail of this Love could never exist- as this “Charity”- Agape-Love is an everlasting unconditional gift from God, and can never fall away- it will always be with us, Even if knowledge, proclamation or Prophesy disappear or leave us, …..this is the God willing Love that is always with us -as Ed has pointed out. What better Prophecy than that.

FlaMurph on February 2, 2016 at 12:50 AM

The message of the prophets was “love”? Seriously? Is that what Christ told them it was?

Cleombrotus on February 1, 2016 at 7:27 AM

Yes.

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them tested him by asking,“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

unclesmrgol on February 15, 2016 at 2:35 PM