The people of the synagogue in Jesus’ hometown 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 (Lk 4:29). Why did Jesus’ own rise up in such a fury that they sought to physically expel him from their midst?
Jesus dared to equate others outside of his own tribe as equal to them. Just before the uprising to throw him tumbling down a hill, Jesus shared that God had already been working to reveal his invitation of salvation to those beyond the people of Israel. Elijah was sent to the widow of Zarephath and Elisha brought healing to Naaman the Syrian. These two individuals that the prophets engaged with were Gentiles.
The people hear clearly in Jesus’ inaugural address that he is bringing glad tidings to the poor, the captive and the oppressed of not only the Jewish nation but all nations. Jesus’ invitation of salvation is for all people. His own would have none of it. They were too closed in on themselves to be willing to grow beyond their shortsightedness such that they could not see that they were part of this plan of salvation as well, not to keep their light under a bushel basket, but instead to be the light to the nations.
Self autonomy, self appropriation, self focus, and ego centeredness has no place if living the Gospel is central to our lives. As St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). For love to grow, there needs to be not constriction but expansion. If love is to increase in us, we are to give it away.
The very simple act of breathing means that we are alive, but when we are anxious, stressed or afraid, our breathing is constricted, our blood flow is diminished, we become cold. We are surviving, yet not thriving. When we consciously take some deep breaths, our lungs expand, our intake of oxygen increases, our blood flow to the small blood vessels improves and our heart rate regulates. Our blood pressure stabilizes and we have the opportunity to be less reactive, more peaceful, and we become warm.
Jesus invited the people of his hometown to expand beyond their posture of survival and defensiveness. He invited them to move beyond tribalism to inclusiveness. Jesus invited his people to love, to will the good of others. He invites us today to do the same. Will we contribute to our present condition of defensiveness and polarization in our interactions in person and on line, perceiving reality only from our own limited point of view, reacting impulsively, impatiently, disrespectfully, or will we say yes to Jesus’ invitation to breathe deep, receive his love, so as to love in return?
Photo: Jesus’ arms are wide open to embrace us all in his love. Garden of St. Peter Catholic Church.