Monday of Week 3 of Lent – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 4:24-30

This Gospel, and the Gospel story of the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42), are both linked by the story told in today’s First Reading about Naaman, a Syrian general, who was miraculously cured by Elisha the prophet.

The Gospel is the second part of the scene in the synagogue in Nazareth, where Jesus officially announces his mission as Messiah, Saviour and Liberator. The first reaction was one of amazement that Jesus, their townsman, could speak with such power:

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. (Luke 4:22)

There was amazement, but no real faith in him. Familiarity had blinded them to his true identity, and they reject him. For them he is just ‘Joe the carpenter’s boy’.

Jesus says he is not surprised by this reception:

Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.

He then goes on to give two examples taken from the lives of two well-known Old Testament prophets. They are not quite examples of prophets not being received by their own people, but rather of prophets reaching out to other peoples, non-believers.

When there was a great famine among the Israelites, it was a Sidonian widow who was helped by Elijah. Sidon was the place where Jesus would heal a gentile woman’s daughter. There were many leprous people in Israel, says Jesus, but Elisha was sent to cure Naaman the Syrian, another Gentile.

Jesus’ hearers are incensed by what appear to them arrogant and insulting words. In their minds, they were not rejecting a prophet but an impostor. They find his remarks about Elijah and Elisha highly objectionable.

The references to Elijah and Elisha help to emphasise Luke’s image of Jesus as a prophet like those who went before him. They also lay the foundation for the future mission of the Apostles to the Gentiles.

We too can very easily fail to recognise the voice of God in certain people who in fact – whether they are aware of it or not – are bringing a message from him. Like the people of Nazareth, we can think we know them too well to have to listen to them. We feel it would be inconceivable that God could speak to us through such people. Fair warning that this probably happens most of all with people we see every day during our lives.

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