Monday, March 4, 2013

Friend to the Marginalized

So, if we are trying to develop a genuine friendship with Jesus, what can we gather from the gospel being read at our Masses today:  Luke 4:24-30?

Recall that the event described by Luke occurred during the early days of Jesus public ministry.  He returned to his "local parish," the temple where he was accustomed to worship as a youngster and a young man.  After reading from the Torah, Jesus preached what we would call a homily.  He was to the point.  He wanted his home town friends and others to know that he would be a preacher who spoke to the point.  He realized and wanted those in the temple to realize that a prophet is called upon by God to speak boldly.  He would not "soften" the will of his Father with a watered-down interpretation of the Torah.

The people of Nazareth called upon him to heal some of his own just as he had done elsewhere.  Not stepping back from the call, he spoke out clearly.  Recalling Old Testament events, the healings brought about by two OT prophets, Elijah and Elisha, for some people who were not of the Jewish practice.  He reminded the Nazareth temple congregation that these Elijah was sent to the widow in Zarephath and Elisha cleansed a Syrian leper, Naaman.  His words angered the people who tried to do Jesus in but "he passed through the midst of them and went away" (Lk 4:30).

In trying to see what kind of friend Jesus is as we see him in this incident, he speaks of a value that he sees in some people who just are not a part of the Jewish community.  Outsiders.  Immigrants?  This little homily from Jesus should be a reminder to those who may feel that the Church does not care for them if they are not "within the box" of the community's thinking or belief.  In our times this might indeed be the high school student who is facing a college or employment future at this time of the year, immigrant, a person of color, a person of different sexual preference, those people who are challenged by mental diseases, those physically challenged and so forth.  Jesus is not a preacher who spoke only for in the upper classes of society.  Jesus is a friend to all of us, especially to those who are "different."

A question for a discussion with Jesus would be this:  "Jesus, would you help me to discover if there is any preferential treatment of some to the exclusion of others because of them being different?"  Let these words of St. Luke be a constant reminder to us that we should also seek to affirm those whom prejudice and hatred reject.