Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Yesterday’s Gospel was brief, to the point, and a bit surprising: after choosing the Twelve Apostles from among His disciples, Jesus goes home, where His relatives declare Him to be insane. Contrast that with today’s Gospel, which tells us that Jesus returned to His home country and was “praised by all.”
Jesus reads a powerful passage from Isaiah today which surely excited His neighbors with hope of the Messiah to come, the promised hero and liberator of their people; Roman rule had long since worn out its welcome. When He then tells them that this Scripture has been fulfilled, He has their absolute attention. But some people have second thoughts about the local boy: He cannot be the Messiah because they have known Him all His life.
Our Gospel today shows us that they actually did not know Jesus at all, and this can teach us something very important about being a follower of Christ: we will not always be welcome in the world. Jesus is, in effect, making His mission statement, on fire with “the power of the Spirit” after wrestling with Satan in the desert for over a month. Is this not also our mission statement as Christians, to do the work of Christ, by the power of the Spirit with which we are anointed in our sacramental life? We are called to serve the poor, to proclaim the freedom Christ offers to those bound by sin and despair, to help those blind to God see His presence in their lives by the light of our witness and love: we are the heralds of a Kingdom that is conquering the world.
The world does not always want to see or hear these things because when Christ comes to conquer—with the gentle battering ram of His persistent love!—it means that we must surrender to Him. As we come better to know and love Jesus, however, we realize that He comes not to destroy us, but to heal us and raise us up. When we truly know Him—better than even His relatives knew Him—we cannot but want to help others know Him, too. This is the task of an apostle: to help others to know, love, and serve Christ. It is the image and continuation of Jesus’ ministry, He who was sent into the world that it might know the One Who sent Him. We, therefore, must strive to help the world come to know the One Who sent us.
Do not be afraid, then, when this task becomes difficult: Jesus tells us elsewhere that “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you…In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 15:18-19, 16:33)