Monday, February 29th – Kristen Schaeffer
Gospel: LK 4:24-30
Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth:
“Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
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.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
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.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
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.
But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
Sometimes it is truly frightening to stand alone. The powerful photograph of a single young man standing in front of the line of tanks during the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square brings many questions to mind. What makes that scene so powerful? What was he feeling in that moment? Why was he standing there? Was he scared? I know I would have been. It’s hard to stand up to a large group of people knowing that they may either dislike what you have to say or misunderstand what you say and hurt you because of the message. In this passage, Jesus stands alone. The group listens to his preaching and they are incensed with his words. Yet when I read this passage I think they misunderstand one of the messages Jesus is trying to impart about spreading the Good News. This makes me think of the power of acceptance and how it is vital for Christianity to welcome new members to the faith and love of God. Including those who want to share in the Good News of Christ happens through interaction with those outside of our faith. Sometimes we exclude people because they are different than we are, or they challenge ideas that we hold close to our hearts. We combat extremism and prejudice with inclusion and interaction. In the examples Jesus gives in this reading he reminds us that everyone is welcome. To God, everyone is worth His love including the skeptical Syrian leper and the trusting widow of Zarephath. God does not discriminate, or shun, or exclude; God is love and welcomes all who want to know Him. Neither the leper nor the widow was a follower of the true faith, but each leaves as a devotee. Without inclusion our faith would not grow and neither would God’s message. Many times, I feel like a member of the crowd, misunderstanding those messages behind the words. Is it that Jesus really wants to call out his fellow townspeople or condemn the people around him? I don’t think so. Instead I feel as though Jesus is reminding the faithful to welcome everyone and to seek out those who have not yet heard the Good News so that no person needs to feel excluded or alone. God is there with open arms and love for each of us.
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