We continue Epiphanytide, the season of manifestations of Jesus. In this Sunday’s gospel (Luke 4:21-30), we find Jesus manifest Himself “in the synagogue at Nazareth”, His traditional spiritual home, where He is surely a known entity. Luke then tells us that “Jesus read from the book of the prophet Isaiah, and began to say, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” Initially, “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth”. But then the familiarity begins to influence their thinking (“Is not this Joseph's son?”) and obscure the manifestation of Jesus. Jesus thus challenges them to go beyond their thinking, to discover something new, someOne new. He pointedly and movingly says, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown”. The challenge, however, proves to be too much: “when they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They rose, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.” Hospitality no more! Because Jesus calls the shots, however, “he passed through the midst of them and went on his way”.
This gospel surely implies an invitation to us to welcome Jesus beyond any familiarity, to allow our-selves to be drawn more deeply into the mystery of God, beyond all imagery, beyond all need. When we do this (by simply expressing a desire for this, which then allows God truly to draw us), we “obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). We are set free to love as St. Paul describes in our second reading from his first letter to the Church in Corinth (read, by the way, by British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997): “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong-doing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Divine love is our calling. Bear in mind, however, that this divine love is a gift, which transcends the natural capacity of the human heart, enabling us to love as Jesus wants us to love, and thus fulfill an otherwise impossible commandment: “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27). To love does not mean to like, and to love does not mean to tolerate injustice. But it does mean love…
Jesus’ surprising, unsettling, and liberating invitation extends to each and every one of us, “who are loved by God and called to be his holy people” (Romans 1:7). My continued prayer for us is that, more and more, we respond with great desire, so that our hearts expand, and we grow in love for one another, which will only make our community irresistible to us and to all those searching for a spiritual home.
Gratefully yours in Christ,
From the desk of the Rector