In today’s Gospel, we have Christ once again in his hometown. He was welcomed on previous occasions, but this time it was different. Although they are amazed with Him and adore the words of His mouth, the tide quickly shifts: being somewhat entertained, the people expected him to work wonders here as he did in Capernaum. They wanted favoritism from Jesus, but failed to realize that God has not favorites. Jesus tells them that as a prophet, his mission is not merely to benefit his own people, but to do God’s Will. The primary duty of the prophet is to call all people to hear and repent…to be the voice of Almighty God. Moreover, that they refuse to see Him for who He really is does not confound Him, for those outside of faith hear Him and believe in Him. Yet, the people are furious and immediately seek to destroy this One who speaks words that condemn their attitudes.
But Jesus is merely speaking truth, is He not? Why then want to destroy Him?
Well, consider our own attitudes: when someone speaks words of correction to us, don’t we often rebel against them? A superior chastises us for some wrongdoing, yet don’t we become angry with them instead of head their advice and instruction? What about when a teacher gives us a failing grade on a test? We get angry at the teacher don’t we? Or a police officer gives us a ticket: isn’t one of our responses to become angry?
But why? Each of them is only drawing attention to some truth that has escaped us: the worker should work diligently; the student earned the poor grade; the police officer is only upholding order and righteousness in a community…and we are the ones at fault.
Even the prophet Jeremiah encourages our admonishment when we’ve strayed from truth and goodness. In our first reading, we are instructed to stand up for all that is good, even when it’s difficult. When we do, God becomes our strength, the Lord protects us and defends us…with His truth.
Think of this another way: when you are at the water cooler at work or at school, and others speak bad about someone else. Sure, it may be true, but it is still belittling and only tears others down. Our readings are challenging us to stand up for the Good, the right…for justice. Just as Christ does in the Gospel, we are to speak words that correct and admonish such gossip. But, how?
St. Paul, in our second reading, gives us a clue: to correct and admonish out of love for the other. We challenge poor behavior not so that we prove we are better, or holier, but rather because we love goodness and right, not merely for our own sakes, but for the sake of all others, for that is what love demands. And we accept, albeit humbly, the correction of others, the admonishment of our poor doings or words, especially if we can see evidence of real and authentic love in the correction.
May this week reveal to each of us the ways in which we might need correction; when we are admonished, may we also see and hear love in the correction; when wrong, may we be able to accept a good criticism, and after all of this, give thanks to God for the gifts of truth, justice, and love…all flowing from God!