One thing that is not often mentioned in sermons is the apparent failure of Jesus’ teaching in his own village. Not only this episode of Jesus’ life seemed to be a failure, but it almost turned into a tragic experience. How is it to be understood? That Jesus had been banned from the village of Nazareth where he grew up? Could he have started his ministry elsewhere after failing to convince his own people (if we assume that charity begins at home)? It is difficult to know the accurate historical account of that incident. However, today’s Gospel uses it to make two points: a prophet is hardly welcomed by his own and God chooses to save whomever he wants.
Saying that a prophet is hardly welcomed by his own is part of the experience of many. It can be difficult for someone to convince people who saw them growing up, people who have known their weakness, especially if they do not have a highly respected religious, political or social status. In the case of Jesus, even his close family had its doubts about his sanity (Mk 3:21). Nonetheless, prophets come from human families and today’s Gospel warns all those who undertake God’s ministry about the possibilities of encountering incredulity and the opposition from their closest families and friends.
The second point made by today’s Gospel is that God saves whomever he chooses. In this situation, that means that Jesus was going to choose other people rather than his own, who had rejected him. Naaman (a foreigner and a leper) and the widow of Zarephath represent all those people that we might sometimes see as unworthy of God’s mercy. It is not because people do not belong to the group of the faithful that they are obviously excluded from God’s mercy. That is why the Church takes seriously her obligation to enter into honest dialogue with people of all cultures and religions as a means of seeking to appreciate the ways in which the world has been prepared to receive the unbounded mercy of God which had been revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
During this Lent, let us welcome the Good News without dwelling on the identity of whoever brings it to us, and let us learn to treat all people as children of God who deserve God’s attention and mercy.