Sunday, June 27, 2010

No Guarantees

Luke 4:22-30
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, ...Image via Wikipedia
Last week, with the account of the healing of the centurion’s servant, we hear how the people of the covenant with Moses, the people whom God had prepared with the revelation of Himself and His promise to send a Redeemer, had not, for the most part, recognized His Son when He came into their midst. Instead, it was someone who was not a member of the community of faith, someone who was not allowed to worship in the temple, who knew that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, with the power to heal even from a distance. That theme is present as well in the reading today from the holy Gospel according to St. Luke. Our Lord is speaking to the people of God in the synagogue when he tells them how the prophet of God Elijah was sent to dwell in the house of a widow and her son during a time of great famine. The woman had just enough flour and oil to bake one last portion of bread for herself and her son, and then they were resigned to starving to death. But while the prophet was there – having asked her to give him their last meal, which she did – the container of flour was never empty, and the pitcher of oil never ran out. So it was that they survived the famine – but the widow and her son were not from among the people of god. Our Lord also tells them of the prophet Elisha, who healed Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy. His statements anger those who heard what He said, so much that they even tried to kill Him by throwing Him from the top of a cliff. The words He said that angered them should be words of warning for all of us – for remember, we are now the people of God; we are the people of the New Covenant; and we are the ones at risk of missing the blessings that God desires to give to all who call upon His name with faith.

Here’s what our Lord was saying in the synagogue that day that made those listening so upset. It wasn’t, He was saying, that there were no widows in Israel who were starving – indeed, there were. Likewise, it wasn’t that there was no one afflicted with a skin disease, called leprosy (although what we call leprosy today is not what was referred to there) in Israel – indeed, there were. In both instances, our Lord was pointing out to those who thought that they were holding on to a “guarantee” of being the favored people of God that God would not hesitate to reach out to those who truly believe, as the widow trusted God in feeding His prophet, and as Naaman trusted by following the prophet’s instructions for his healing. Just because we know how to cross ourselves, this does not make us the people of God. Just because we know how to fast, just because we know how to pray, just because we venerate the holy icons – these things, all good for us to do, these things do not make us the people of God. Do we have the love of God in our hearts; and do we show that love to everyone we meet? Do we have a love that is patient, gentle, humble, generous, forgiving, and kind? Do we trust that God will provide for our needs, and live, not for this world, but for the world to come? It is living in that way – living a life in which Christ can be seen, humble, righteous, patient, and loving so well that He accepted death on the Cross on our behalf – it is living that way which makes us to be the people of God.

Brothers and sisters, may God give us grace and strength, wisdom and patience, and the peace that passes all understanding, that we may show the life and love of Christ to all, to the glory of His name, and the salvation of our souls.
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