4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): Who is Jesus For?
(Adults, you could begin by reading the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
This year, most of our readings come from the Gospel of Saint Luke. Last week we heard Saint Luke's account of Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returning to his hometown of Nazareth, and reading from the Word of God. In the people's hearing, the Word of God is brought to fullness. In the Gospel this Sunday, we hear the people's reaction to what they have heard.
Jesus went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom, and read from the prophet Isaiah. The eyes of all were fixed on him.
With their eyes fixed on Jesus, the people are not distracted by anything else. They are fascinated by him.
Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
The people speak well of Jesus. They know him; he grew up in their hometown. Look how well he has turned out! It is amazing how well he speaks! Joseph's son, their very own Jesus, (he belongs to them after all)—the people of Nazareth can be proud of Jesus. They can be proud of themselves, too, can't they? They are also from Nazareth. Obviously, it is good to be from Nazareth.
Jesus' next words to the people are a little strange, though:
“Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’”
Jesus seems to be anticipating what the people will say next. He knows these people and he knows how they think. They are proud of him, yes. He is from Nazareth just like them, yes. But is he for Nazareth?
How does Jesus understand what he is on earth to do? He lets the people see into his thinking. He reminds them of two stories in the Bible. One is about a prophet named Elijah:
there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.
Elijah belongs to Israel; he serves the One, True God. The widow at Zarephath is a Gentile woman—someone who does not know the One, True God. But when she listens to Elijah, she has faith in God, and a miracle occurs.
The other story is about a prophet named Elisha:
There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.
Elisha belongs to Israel; he serves the One, True God, too. Naaman the Syrian is a Gentile man—he does not know the One True God. But he trusts Elisha, and a miracle occurs. Through Naaman, more Gentiles come to know God.
Both prophets belong to Israel.
Both prophets find people of faith among the Gentiles.
In both stories, through the work of the prophets, Gentiles come to know God.
Why is Jesus telling the people of Nazareth this? What is he saying?
Following what we learn from the two stories, perhaps Jesus is saying:
I belong to Nazareth, a town in Israel. I am for Nazareth, of course.
I find faith among the Gentiles. I am for them, too.
Through me, Gentiles come to know God.
We remember that this account of Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth comes from Saint Luke. Saint Luke makes sure to include these two stories that Jesus tells. He knows that people all over the world will read this Gospel, people like us who do not belong to Israel. Saint Luke makes sure to include these two stories for us. Why? What can we be sure of?
Who is Jesus for?