Today’s Thoughts: I have always liked our Gospel reading for today (Luke 4:16-30) though I have spent most of my time with the first half of the story rather than the second half.
I have done a lot of Confirmation retreats over my 33 plus years as a priest and if the retreat ended with the celebration of mass, I almost always used the first half of today’s Gospel. In my homily I tell those who have made the retreat that the Gospel calls to mind two pictures and if I include the second half of today’s Gospel I might as well say three pictures.
The first is a day in the life of Jesus. He has returned home, perhaps for a long weekend, and like a good young Jewish man he goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath to pray. Because he has gained some importance as he has begun his pubic ministry, he is asked by the leader of the synagogue to do the reading. Jesus stands up, takes the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah and reads those now familiar words to us, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…” The after finishing the reading he sits down, and everyone is focused on him. Perhaps feeling uncomfortable, perhaps feeling inspired Jesus then tells all those gather that “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, this is what my life from this moment forward in going to be about. This is reason why I have come into the world this is my mission!
Now in painting my first picture on a Confirmation retreat day this is where I would stop however today there is a little more to the picture. Yes, everyone is excited and amazed at Jesus’ words but doubt quickly becomes part of the picture. How can this be? We know him he is Joseph’s son, a simple carpenter. We know his family. We watched him grow up. How can he be this smart, this wise, this self-assured? They have put Jesus into a box and all he can do is challenge their perception of him which only makes them mad. So, a day, a picture that started out so well becomes a day, a picture that has Jesus’ leaving town because people think they know better.
The second picture painted by these words is a day in our life. Perhaps our Confirmation Day or our Wedding Day, or our Ordination Day, or the day we took vows in religious life or some other important day in our life of faith. We like good women and men of faith gathered with others for a celebration of faith and when the celebration ends people spoke highly of us. It was a day like Jesus’ day when we began our journey of faith by choosing a path, a mission, a vocation, a ministry that we would fulfill by the living of our life like Jesus.
The only difference between these two pictures is that we know the end of Jesus’ story. He did fulfill all that he read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah that day by the living of his life, however we don’t know the end of our story it is not complete. How will we fulfill in the living of our life? How will we make God’s presence known to the world?
The third and final picture is that in the living of our life we will have moments when doubt, preconceived ideas, notions and perceptions of us will make the journey difficult. We will encounter people who doubt our gifts, our abilities, our faithfulness. We will encounter people who see us as nothing special and refuse to accept the grace, the blessing, the gift of God that we bring to that moment of life. So, the question is how will we respond to these moments of challenge, disappointment and disrespect? Will we give up or trust in the presence of God?
Have a great Labor Day everyone.
Fr. Paul R. Fagan, C.P. "Preacher on the Run"