Homily – February 3, 2019

Did you grow up in an area where everyone knew everybody and everybody’s business? Have you heard your parents, when speaking of someone else say, “I remember them when.’ People are not expected to get to uppity. They are to stay in their place.

The more things change the more they remain the same. At the time of Jesus this was the same mentality – know your place. Everyone had a proper place in society that was established by birth. No one was ever expected to neither become something better nor improve on the lot of their parents. The people of Nazareth knew Jesus was the son of Joseph the carpenter. What’s with his going around and acting like a rabbi?

Jesus worked his way home after spending 40 days in the desert praying and fasting and sorting out the message he’d received at his baptism – you are my son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.

His neighbours had heard that this son of Joseph was saying and doing wonderful things in Capernaum. They didn’t know what to expect of him. The word went out that he was going to read the scriptures on the Sabbath. The synagogue was packed with curious people. His neighbours were curious about what he had to say and wondered about his popularity. Jesus read from Isaiah and attributed the call of Isaiah to himself – the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed. Jesus is perceived by his neighbours as being uppity, as stepping shamefully beyond his family boundaries. His father Joseph was a carpenter – who does he think he making such claims.

Rubbing salt into the wounds opened by his insulting behavior Jesus inserts himself into the prophetic line of Elijah and Elisha. Prophets who worked beyond the confines of the Jewish people, prophets God sent to the gentiles, the widow in Sidon and the Syrian leper Naaman. Jesus too would reach out to Samaritans and Gentiles. He was called to be for all people.

This was too much; who did this man think he was, preaching to them. ‘All in the synagogue were filled with rage, they drove him out of town, proving the truth of his saying, and ‘a prophet is not without honor except in his own town.

Prophets can be bothersome, they can make us uncomfortable, we ask, ‘who do they think they are’’? We could ask ourselves the question, are we listening to the prophets of our times, prophets who disturb us, make us uneasy with their messages. Prophets such as the scientists who tell us of climate change and the negative impact our use of fossil fuel has on the health of Earth’s life systems, prophets who warn us of the impact our lifestyles have on the acidity of the oceans, the quality of the air we breathe, the health of the earth that feeds us, the waters that nourish us. Prophets like Pope Francis who calls us to our human and Christian responsibility to honor and care for God’s good creation. Their messages really can make us uncomfortable, they challenge us to a change in our life styles, our wastefulness, our unconcern about the impact we have one the wellbeing, not only on the earth but on those who share the earth with us, the people who live in lands facing drought or devastated by heatwaves, climate changes that bring about artic blasts or hurricanes. Prophets who challenge us to think about what kind of an earth we will leave for future generations.

As we continue our Mass we can pray for ourselves and for each other that hear the words of our prophets and commit ourselves to living simply that others may simply live.