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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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Martyrdom of John the Baptist: The drunken oath of a king with a shallow sense of honor, a seductive dance and the hateful heart of a queen combined to bring about the martyrdom of John the Baptist. The greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him: rejection and martyrdom. The “voice crying in the desert” did not hesitate to accuse the guilty, did not hesitate to speak the truth. But why? What possesses a man that he would give up his very life? 
<p>This great religious reformer was sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah. His vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power that he claimed was the Spirit of Yahweh. “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power. John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37). It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ. John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people. His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions. His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart. Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.</p> American Catholic Blog Just as my children become members of my family when I bring them into the world, so too our baptism incorporates us into the family of the Church. This supernatural membership prevents us from being orphans who have to fend for themselves in the spiritual wilderness.

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