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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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Joseph Benedict Cottolengo: In some ways Joseph exemplified St. Francis’ advice, "Let us begin to serve the Lord God, for up to now we have made little or no progress" (<i>1 Celano, </i>#103). 
<p>Joseph was the eldest of 12 children. Born in Piedmont, he was ordained for the Diocese of Turin in 1811. Frail health and difficulty in school were obstacles he overcame to reach ordination. </p><p>During Joseph’s lifetime Italy was torn by civil war while the poor and the sick suffered from neglect. Inspired by reading the life of St. Vincent de Paul and moved by the human suffering all around him, Joseph rented some rooms to nurse the sick of his parish and recruited local young women to serve as staff. </p><p>In 1832 at Voldocco, Joseph founded the House of Providence which served many different groups (the sick, the elderly, students, the mentally ill, the blind). All of this was financed by contributions. Popularly called "the University of Charity," this testimonial to God’s goodness was serving 8,000 people by the time of Joseph’s beatification in 1917. </p><p>To carry on his work, Joseph organized two religious communities, the Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul. Joseph, who had joined the Secular Franciscans as a young man, was canonized in 1934.</p> American Catholic Blog The image of God! This is what it means to be human! We are not just a bunch of cells randomly thrown together by some impersonal forces. Rather, we reflect an eternal God who knew us from before we were made and purposely called us into being.

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