Things “went south” pretty quickly after Jesus read the words from the prophet Isaiah, told the crowd that those prophetic words were fulfilled in their hearing, and then just sat down. How did things get so out of hand so quickly – from prayer to attempted homicide. When they got home, I wonder if they reflected on the whole incident? Did they take it into prayer and search for the presence of God in the midst of all that turmoil?
Maybe some of them began to think about the two stories – well known stories of the great prophets Elijah and Elisha. When there was drought and famine in Israel, Elijah was sent to the gentile lands to a widow in Zarephath. And when there were lepers a plenty in Israel, the only one Elisha cured was not only a gentile, but the general of the enemy army. I wonder if some of them, outside the heat of the moment, when the grace of Wisdom could work, came to the thought: I guess the blessings of God are for more than the hometown, Galilee, or Israel. The blessings of God are for all the people of the earth. Perhaps Wisdom helped them to realize – that was exactly the message of the prophet Isaiah. In fact, Israel was called to the light to the whole world. I can imagine someone thinking, “How did I not see that? What made me closed to the idea that maybe Joseph’s son is that long-awaited Messiah?”
If they gave it all some more thought, maybe they would realize that Jesus faced exactly what God told the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading: tell the people of God’s plans and you will walk into a maelstrom of resentment and resistance. What is it about God’s plans, the choices he offers us that can get us so riled up, discombobulated so that we hardly know ourselves? When the prophet Jonah was recruited to go to the mortal enemies of Israel, the Assyrians and open up God’s plan to them, Jonah chose being swallowed by a whale rather than be party to the Plan. Imagine that. Rather than extend and offer God’s love to all. In the end he goes to Assyria, reluctantly preaches God’s love – all the while hoping they won’t take up the offer and will be consumed in fire and brimstone. But the Assyrians accept God’s plan, repent, and in the end Jonah is outside the city brooding over the whole thing. So much for “Love is patient, love is kind… it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interest, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury.” (1 Cor 12:3-4)
Love and Wisdom – early church names for Jesus himself – they seem to have trouble finding a place in the conversation when our ability to hear, to see, when our ego, when something has already started our emotions churning. It happened to Jonah, the people of Jerusalem listening to Jeremiah, and it happened to the folks in Nazareth. It happens to us. Who among us has not been rude during a conversation with some cutting, clever quip; interrupted someone to make our point and ensure their point – which is clearly wrong-headed – is never heard? Who among us has been a bit quick tempered and when it is all over, brood over how we have been wronged? Love was not very patient or kind – in fact was pretty rude, quick tempered and is still brooding. “I know I should not let it bother me, but….” That is a familiar refrain to all of us.
Even if we are not outwardly rude, somehow maintaining good manners, what about what’s going on inside as we find ourselves somewhere between uneasy and furious, silently fuming on the border of rage? Who among us does not feel a rise in energy when we are drawn into certain topics? Think about all the wrong-thinking people you know with egregious opinions about (and in no particular order): immigration, government shutdowns, Medicare for all, tax cuts for those other people, President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, red-light cameras, Florida football, Florida State football — and don’t get me started on Miami, “the U” football … from the important to not-so-important.
And that is just the external stuff – part of our particular tribe. What about our demonstration of love within our own homes? On our good days we are patient and kind. On our good days. And then there are the other days when the mood can be described as the near occasion of rude, sullen, surly, angry, loud, frustrated, argumentative, and the silent brooding in the wake of such things. Later on, we think, “What was all that about?” It is as though we hardly know ourselves and we seem so far away from who we are called to be. We know we are called to be loving people and we look over our shoulder and shudder.
We all have different things that get under our skin, different boiling points – and we need to reflect on them – and change. Ask for Wisdom’s grace to reflect on that. But also ask for Wisdom’ grace to reflect on love and the way it operates in your life. Perhaps Wisdom is for the quiet moments, but Love is for the daily battle in the trenches of life. But it is in the quiet moments that we are called to reflect on Love operating in our lives.
I wonder if for most of us love becomes that longed-for magical moment as in the movies or portrayed on a Hallmark card. So, we fall in live, commit for life and maybe in the end, after all years of practice, Wisdom shapes and forms our love to be patient, kind, not inflated, not rude, not self-interested, not quick tempered, and never brooding. But what about in between? What about when, in our homes and daily lives, when we are the people in the synagogue in Nazareth, when we are Jonah – and we all have a choice, can we work on being the people the embraces the Love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things?”
During the many weddings I have celebrated, the young couple smiles radiantly at the thought of their love being patient and kind. Their relatives, married 30, 40 and 50+ years, smile knowingly at the Wisdom of a maturing love that can bear, believe, hope and endure all things.
Life will swallow us like Jonah, bring us moments such as Nazareth – but this day brings us the Eucharist – Wisdom and Love itself – that we may reflect on all these moments in order to truly, deeply learn to love.