Fr. Kirk Reynolds, S.J.

Today’s gospel passage from Luke (4:16-30) is well-known and comes at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Many look upon it as Jesus’ MISSION STATEMENT.

Jesus walks into the synagogue in Nazareth on the sabbath, opens up a scroll of Isaiah, and quotes and identifies himself with ch. 61. In this chapter Isaiah says that he, Isaiah, has been anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to captives, to announce healing and reconciliation. Jesus will spend the rest of his public life living out these words in many different ways. And his mission statement is OUR mission statement.

But Luke goes on to say that his townspeople’s initial reaction of being astounded and favorably impressed very quickly turns to rage and they try to throw him off a cliff. What happened?

Jesus provokes their anger by citing 2 Old Testament prophets, both of whom brought God’s saving power and healing to 2 different Gentiles. At this the people are enraged. It would appear that Jesus indicating God’s providential care for people outside the boundaries of Palestine, the homeland of God’s Chosen People, was very problematic. Could God’s care extend beyond His Chosen People? Weren’t they his only Chosen People? Either you were or you weren’t among the Chosen, right? Either/or.

While we know “well” that Jesus’ mission was universal, to reach to “the ends of the earth”, can we fall at times into this same parochial thinking? Either/or vs. Both/and? Can God’s goodness extend beyond our own limited viewpoint and thinking?

Historically, there was a period of time when it was taught that there was
“no salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church”.

Intellectually we can easily assent to our God being much more of the “both/and” thinking than the “either/or”. But what does this look like for us in the real world we inhabit? How we view and respond to situations and people?

Are we being called by God in this direction perhaps more than ever, to be more Godlike and Christlike in this specific way, given the very divided world we currently live in?