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Bible Reflections View Comments

God Speaks in Unlikely Ways
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013
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In today’s Gospel, Jesus has been speaking to the people in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. While they are initially awed by his proclamation of the word, they begin to resent what they see as a local boy getting too important for his own good—or their comfort. It was one thing when he was doing impressive deeds in Capernaum. But now he comes home to Nazareth and tells them that the status quo is going to change. He has read to them the passage in which the prophet Isaiah says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” They wait for him to interpret this passage for them in the way of the rabbis, and instead he says, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The people of Nazareth think they know all there is to know about this Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph. How could he possibly be the fulfillment of the words of one of their greatest prophets? And then he tells them that it’s not about the hometown crowd at all. It’s about salvation being extended to all the nations.

We might talk about living in a global village in the twenty-first century. But really we can be as insular as any first-century village in Palestine. We have our families, our groups of friends, our coworkers, our fellow parishioners. We surround ourselves with the people who are like us, whatever that might mean.

We’re quick to judge other people: by appearance, by background, by familiarity, by behavior. Too often we dismiss them because they don’t meet some actual or imagined standard. We don’t even see the homeless person we pass each day on the way to work, the troubled student, the perpetually complaining coworker.

The people we think we know best are often the hardest to take seriously —an elderly parent, a confused teenager, an ambitious and upwardly mobile young adult. We put people into compartments so that we know how to respond without thinking.

The danger in this is that we can very easily miss the voice of God speaking through unlikely prophets. Often the greatest obstacle to moving forward, whether at school, at work, or in our families, is an inability or unwillingness to recognize that the people around us can change. And then we have to wrestle with the fact that they might have something to say that will challenge us to change our own lives.

St. Paul reminds us that love is more important than any other gift or talent we may possess. He says, “And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge, if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Whether we’re speaking or listening, we need to do it with love, with openness, with humility. We need to learn not to react out of anger and frustration.

Jesus knows his message, he knows his call. But he also knows that he will not always be accepted by his audience. He says what he has come to say and then he passes through their midst and away. It’s left to them to decide whether they’re going to hear and act on his words.

God can speak to us through anyone at any time. Will we listen? Will we be open to hearing God’s message? And perhaps most important of all, how will we respond?


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Matthew: Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. The Romans were not scrupulous about what the "tax farmers" got for themselves. Hence the latter, known as "publicans," were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with "sinners" (see Matthew 9:11-13). So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of his intimate followers. 
<p>Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house. The Gospel tells us that "many" tax collectors and "those known as sinners" came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more badly shocked. What business did the supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus' answer was, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Matthew 9:12b-13). Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that loving others is even more important. </p><p>No other particular incidents about Matthew are found in the New Testament.</p> American Catholic Blog The most appealing invitation to embrace the religious life is the witness of our own lives, the spirit in which we react to our divine calling, the completeness of our dedication, the generosity and cheerfulness of our service to God, the love we have for one another, the apostolic zeal with which we witness to Christ’s love for the poorest of the poor.

 
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