Monday, September 04, 2017

Through Their Midst

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away. Luke 4:28-30

Keep your tongue from evil, your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Ps 34: 14-15). 

Saturday, Jeremiah considered the Lord a fraud. Today, those accusations continue. A fraudster invades the temple in Nazareth because the people there cannot handle the truth as delivered by the Carpenter’s son. The Gospel of Luke could be subtitled the Book of Rejection. Jesus has barely begun his public ministry when this episode takes place.

Jesus first experiences initial admiration as he proclaims the Nazareth Manifesto – the passage he quotes from Isaiah basically sets forth the aims of public ministry. But, when Jesus presents the truth of the Hebrew Bible in two stories that his neighbors know well, the tables turn against him. In both cases, a non-Israelite becomes the object of the prophet’s ministry.

The rejection foreshadows the whole future ministry of Jesus. Jesus wants to be about bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, healing the sight of the blind, and freeing the oppressed. Instead, he faces rejection at every step along the way. The rejection of Jesus in his own hometown whispers to us the greater rejection Jesus faces from Israel and Rome down the line.

More than any other gospel writer Luke is concerned with Jesus’ attitude toward the economically and socially poor. Yet, to do so, Jesus must overcome the obstacle of public perception and rejection.

A core tenet of the Nazareth Manifesto is to welcome the stranger. That flows into the heart of Catholic Social Teaching. Just like those assembled in the temple, we have a moral obligation to protect the life and dignity of every human being, particularly the most vulnerable, which includes our youth.

The poor people in Luke’s gospel are associated with the downtrodden, the oppressed and afflicted, the forgotten and the neglected. They, more than those closer to Jesus by blood relation or geographic proximity, are the ones who accept Jesus’ message first and foremost.

Remarkably, the headlines today cry of deporting 800,000 young people who know no other home. These young people were brought to the United States by their parents whose desire was to provide their children with hope, opportunity, and safety that they could never hope to find in their countries of birth. Where will they go? They would literally be snatched up and deposited in a foreign land they have never known.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, Sister Donna Markham, president of Catholic Charities USA, and Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC), sent a letter last month calling on the President to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. 

“Your decision to continue this program would ensure that young people can continue to work, study, and be protected from deportation while Congress debates broader legislative fixes to our broken immigration system. A decision to end this program would turn our nation’s back on immigrant youth who are seeking to reach their full God-given potential and fulfill the promise of gratefully giving back to the only country most have ever known.” the letter notes. The full text of the letter is available at 

As Congress debates their fate in the next six months, contact your representatives to get them to extend the welcome mat and keep open the door of opportunity.  

Do we want Jesus to pass through our midst and go elsewhere? Would you not prefer that Jesus will be with us always? He prefers it that way. 

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