The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today, we find the Lord Jesus back home, as it were, in Nazareth. After being tempted in the desert, he returned to those who presumably heard his first words and watched him take his first steps, who taught him how to skip a rock and how to cook a fish, who watched him learn the skill of Saint Joseph, his foster father (cf. Luke 4:1-13). They watched him advance in “wisdom and age before God and man” and saw that that “the favor of God was upon him” (cf. Luke 2:52, 40). They watched him play and they watched him pray, and now he returned to them to teach in their synagogues and “to announce glad tidings to the poor” (cf. Luke 4:15 and 16; Luke 4:18; cf. Isaiah 61:1).
In those days, Nazareth was just a tiny hamlet, at best, consisting of a few large, extended families. The childhood home of Mary was barely a stone’s throw away from that of Joseph. Nazareth was such a small place that those who were not related to you by blood or by marriage might as well have been because of how closely everyone surely lived among each other.
At first, those who heard Jesus make a rather staggering claim – “Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21) – “were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (Luke 4:22). Who can blame them? It was as if the great prayer of the Psalmist was at last being answered in their presence and through one of their own: “O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 71:4)! Did they make these words of the same Psalmist their own, as well: “My mouth shall declare your justice, day by day your salvation” (Psalm 71:15)? It might have seemed as if the Lord were making of Nazareth “a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass,” against which their enemies would not prevail (Jeremiah1:18; cf. Jeremiah 1:19).
How is it, then, that those who first “spoke highly of him” so quickly moved “to hurl him down headlong” over the cliff of Nazareth (Luke 4:22, 29)? What caused their hearts to change so drastically in so little time? Why had Jesus offended them so deeply?