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Passing through their midst
When we encounter an obstacle, we tend to avoid or circumvent it. In doing so, we lose an opportunity to strengthen our identity. Instead of seeing the obstacle as a turning point in our mission, we take flight. In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows us another way. When people wanted to kill him, Jesus did not turn aside from them. He passed through their midst. He stayed a little bit in their presence. He spent a few more minutes to encourage a less angry look from his enemies. Now let us look at the way Luke mentions Jesus’ reaction: “But he passed through the midst of them and went away.” In a short sentence, Luke shows three important aspects of Jesus’ life: identity (“he”), confrontation (“passed through the midst of them”) and mission (“went away.”)
We are at the beginning of Jesus’ public life. The passage that precedes today’s Gospel tells us about Jesus’ presence in the synagogue of Nazareth. There, he read a passage from the prophet Isaiah. After the reading, Jesus said to the people, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (4:21). By saying this, Jesus is suggesting that he is the consecrated of God. He is the bearer of the Good News. He is the liberator of the prisoners and the oppressed. He is the healer of the blind. He is the harbinger of a year acceptable to God. This revelation of identity stirs up as much astonishment as dissatisfaction.
While Jesus spoke of his identity as God’s messenger, some people took him to be just a son of a man, the son of Joseph. Jesus, however, was not afraid of confrontation. He even anticipated people’s reasoning: “Surely you will quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, cure yourself’” (4:23). The challenge for Jesus was to show who he really was and not who he was in people’s opinion. This challenge confronts his path and pursues him to the foot of the cross. There, Jesus will be confronted, three times, with the ultimate temptation: “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself” (23:35.37.39). Being true to himself, Jesus overcame every temptation in order to accomplish the mission he received from his Father.
Jesus’ mission was related to that of the prophets. It was not limited to one people or one country. It had to spread all over the earth. By refusing to give miraculous signs in his hometown, Jesus indicated that his mission was elsewhere. Citing the examples of the prophets who were sent not to Israel, but elsewhere, Jesus specifies the universal nature of his mission. It went beyond Nazareth and Israel. The choice of God’s people was not exclusive. It was an expansive choice. God chose Israel so that through her he could reach out to other peoples. God passed through the midst of his chosen people to go to all his children.
Like Jesus, let’s not be afraid of confrontation. Faced with difficulties, we are to manage them with wisdom, prudence and perseverance. If we know how to take care of them, we become ever more human.
Prayer: God of liberation, help us to pass through the midst of the world with its ups and downs.
Resolution: Pass through a narrow door several times while meditating on today’s Gospel.