| Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19 | I Corinthians 12:31 -13:13 | Luke 4: 21-30 | 4 Ordinary C ‘13 |
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 02.03.2013
Many in our household of faith probably are unaware of this. During the first three centuries of the Christian era, followers of Jesus were known as nonviolent “pacifists.” They were convinced that violence in any form was at odds with the life and teaching of Jesus. They refused to participate in the military and suffered the consequences.
I presume you remember the gospel text of last Sunday. Luke alone tells us how Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth where he was readily recognized as “the son of Joseph.”
“According to his custom Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath.” After reading a text from Isaiah, he sat down and said, “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The immediate response of those listening was to “look at him intently!” Their intensity prompted me to ask, “who is this Jesus whose life is so surprising to those in his home village?”
The remaining structure of the text is strange. Nazareth was a backwater village. This text implies the local folks had expectations that Jesus would do something to put their village on the map. His reference to Elijah and Elisha is heard as a refusal to meet their expectations. “They were furious, got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill in order to throw him down the cliff.” Wow! That is a pretty violent response. Their reaction provides insight into the sort of man Jesus was. Luke tells us “he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” That is how a nonviolent man responds to violence.
“Who is this Jesus whose life is so surprising to those in his home village?” He is not a priest of the Temple. He is not a teacher of the Law. He is not anointed by anyone. Luke tells us he is and lives like a prophet. He is a man of God and his authority comes from God. He dares to read and live reality as seen through the compassion of God. He criticized injustices and called for change that would benefit the poor and the most miserable. He is fully human and nonviolent.
Because we take the gospels seriously we are faced with a personal challenge. On that hill overlooking the cliff, Jesus “walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” His response to violence is nonviolent! He calls us to a radically different way of responding to enemies. “Forgive them.” “Love them.”
Our Christian scriptures make it clear. We cannot claim to be his followers if we rationalize our way around his teaching. It is not enough to claim that Jesus is Lord. His companions listened to him. They provided aid to the poor, the needy, the stranger, the widow and the orphan. They and his followers in the first three centuries of the Christian era made an intentional choice to be nonviolent. They embraced his call to forgive and to love those perceived as enemy and those whose violence would harm them, or their families, or loved ones.
The most recent killings of teachers and elementary school children in Sandy Hook, Connecticut ought to be a wakeup call to all of us who claim to follow Christ. The apparently unending cycle of violence among us is getting worse. Many with whom we gather to celebrate Eucharist readily justify the killing of Osama bin Ladin or anyone labeled a “terrorist.” Politicians, moviemakers, even priests and ministers, tell us that the only responsible way to deal with our enemies is through violence and war.
The response of those in the synagogue that day was violent! In response Jesus was fully human – nonviolent. If Jesus is who the gospels tell us he is, then it is our responsibility to be nonviolent and to be vocal advocates of nonviolence regardless of opposition from the NRA or our neighbors who are hunters. Our practices, habits and actions either substantiate that we are or are not his followers. Our lives either do or do not affirm that we believe he has been raised from the tomb. He either is or is not the Lord, the One in whom we learn what God is like, what God’s will is for us, and what it is to be fully human.