Hometown Troubles

By Sarah Cornwell

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 4:14-30

14 Then Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding region. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “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.’ ” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 But the truth is, 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, 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many with a skin disease in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.


Why doesn’t Jesus take the opportunity to showup the small-minded people of his hometown? This could be a classic example of the local boy who made good and returns to parade his accomplishments in front of everyone. Yet Jesus refuses to perform miracles in Nazareth as he had already done elsewhere. In his commentary on this passage, St. Ambrose helps us to understand why Jesus acted the way he did: it was out of love. Jesus knew that a demonstration of his power would only further embitter the people toward him, rather than convince them that his words were true. Jesus was not looking to score points by showing them up. He also had no interest in goading them into a fight. When the crowd drove him out of town to hurl him off a cliff, Jesus did not rain down retribution or even seek to rebuke them. He simply passed through them and carried on his way.

In our life, we may have an opportunity — perhaps numerous opportunities — to really stick it to certain persons we may think of as having “small-mindedness.” They may even be the people we grew up with, those we may believe we have outgrown and who are confined to the outer darkness of confirmed ignorance. We might want to goad them into a fight and show them that they are wrong, triumphantly determined to point out their backward ways. In such circumstances, we could afford to take a page or two from Jesus’ good book and, rather than lord it over someone else, follow our Lord’s example.

Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have seven children and they live in Chicago.

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