The Pursuit of Wisdom

Today is the memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Church, and medieval scholastic philosopher and theologian. His best-known works are the Disputed Questions on Truth, the Summa contra Gentiles, and the unfinished but influential Summa Theologiae. The first reading for the memorial is from the Book of Wisdom. There are commentaries a plenty on the whole of the book and I would not attempt such a effort, but I would note that, (a) besides being a great source of a reading to honor St. Thomas, (b) it has importance for our times.

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Jesus Rejected

For several days we looked at the perils of being a “hometown prophet.” In today’s exploration of this coming Sunday gospel, we will see the “blowback” from the people.

 28 When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. 29 They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went away

The people of Nazareth began to act on their rage and drive Jesus out of town. The end of this scene is so condensed that interpreters have often felt the need to fill in conjectural details. The scene in question cannot be located with any certainty. Nor is it necessary to speculate about a miraculous deliverance or the force of Jesus’ personality or presence. The intent of the crowd was hostile, but Luke emphasizes that Jesus was not stopped by them. The emphasis is on the last word, which in the Greek text is a verb that implies a continuous action: “He was going on,” The verb (poreuomai) recurs frequently in Luke as the Gospel narrates the journeys that eventually lead Jesus to Jerusalem and the cross.” [Culpepper, 108]

As they were herding Jesus out of town to kill him, he slipped away. In Luke’s Gospel, he never returned to Nazareth. The next passage, just beyond the ending of our reading for today, tells of Jesus returning to Capernaum and again doing great and wonderful things there, and the reports of him circulated throughout the country (4:37, 43-44). The contrast could not be greater. Those who should have known his mission and participated in it, those who knew him best, could see no further than their own wants and their own interests. They drove him out because he not only had dared to share the good news with others, he had brought them face to face with their own narrowness and closed future.

Over this story falls the shadow of the cross, for this will not be the last time that Jesus would take the good news to others who are not the “hometown folks.” And it will not be the last time by doing so that he would confront those who should know better with their own lack of vision and narrow exclusiveness. He will again be rejected by his own people.

Luke is clearly foreshadowing the crucifixion here. But he also has in mind the larger mission of the church in the world. Jesus came to his own, yet they did not accept him (cf. John 1:11-12). But he came not just to his own, but to the whole world. It was precisely because he came to others that his own people did not accept him. They wanted him to themselves, or not at all.

The proclamation of Jesus’ Good News began in Nazareth’s synagogue. But they did not stop the story by rejecting Jesus there. It moved from there throughout Galilee to Jerusalem. And even though they rejected Jesus in Jerusalem, and even succeeded in killing him there, they did not stop the story. It would be played out in Acts, as the apostles and followers of Jesus also suffered rejection at the hands of those who should know better. But they did not stop the Good News. It simply moved on to Judea, to Samaria, and to the farthest reaches of the Earth (Acts 1:7).  The Good News that Jesus read about and proclaimed that day in Nazareth, the mission that he defined, was carried out in spite of rejection.


Commentaries

  • Culpepper, R. Alan. “The Gospel of Luke.” New Interpreter’s Bible. Ed. Leander E. Keck. Vol. 9. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004) 102–109

Scripture quotes taken from New American Bible

A light in the darkness

In today’s gospel, Jesus talks about the light of our faith, to not keep it hidden. A lighted candle has its proper place – not under a basket, but in the lamp stand where it can provide light to the room, so too our faith has a place in the world, not hidden away, but on display for all to see.

An interesting element of this parable is the translation.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?” (Mark 4:21)

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Past as Prologue

Yesterday we looked at details of some verses about the perils of being a “hometown prophet.” In today’s exploration of this coming Sunday gospel, we will continue the “deep dive” of those perils when the prophet’s attention is not focused on just Nazareth, but it is even available to people outside of Israel.

 25 Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. 26 It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

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State Fair Cuisine

Given its balmy weather, Florida holds the first of the state fairs on the circuit of vendors who make their living on the circuit. One of the staples of state fairs is the strange food offerings. Being first up, the FLorida State fair becomes the “test kitchen” for food offerings at the event. Sharon Kennedy Wynne of The Tampa Bay Times published  the lineup of this year’s offerings. Warning: if you are a nutritionist or an advocate for healthy eating, you might want to stop reading lest some internal circuit overloads. Read at your own risk. Continue reading

Persistent Generosity

Persistence Generosity 

In the traditional understanding of the parable of “The Sower and Seed,” the focus is often on the soil as a description of our hearts, of our openness to the word of God being sown into our lives. The soil/heart is described as a well-trod path, rocky ground, a bramble of thorns, or rich fertile soil. There is some insight there to be sure, but it does not necessarily give insight into a remedy.  Some have described it as “the soil under your feet”. All one must do is to look down, assess the conditions where you stand in life, and move. Move to the rich fertile soil – and yes, along the way you will have to deal with birds, the weeds and the scorching sun.

At least two things stand out for me about the Sower: generosity and persistence. Continue reading

The Prince-Bishops of Durham

This morning I received a very nice note from one of this blog’s readers. She was kind enough to send along a note: “My home town is the beautiful City of Durham, World Heritage Site, also known as the Land of the Prince Bishops and final resting places of St. Bede and St. Cuthbert…..both very popular names for Catholic Churches and schools in the area. Thought this might be of interest.” Included was a link to an article about the Prince Bishops of Durham. Continue reading

Hometown Prophets

Yesterday we looked at details of some verses in this coming Sunday gospel. Today we will continue the “deep dive” into this important text.

In the culture of Jesus’ native place, home and family carry obligations, especially that of giving preference to one’s own family and community. Jesus’ words gives voice to their expectations: 23 He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”  Continue reading

Scripture Fulfilled

Yesterday we looked at the context of this coming Sunday gospel. Today we can begin to look more closely at the text:

20 Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. 21 He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  

With the reading complete, Jesus takes the posture (sitting) of the teacher – as he was expected to do. All eyes are upon him, his reputation preceding, his choice of scripture provocative – the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. Then simply and powerfully Jesus tells them that this great promise of God given in Isaiah, this promise of the long awaited Messiah has been fulfilled. Continue reading