Today’s Gospel shows Jesus speaking as a prophet. We may think of a ‘prophet’ as someone who predicts the future, but this wasn’t the main role of the prophets of Israel. They were people who heard God’s word and spoke in God’s name. Prophets opposed kings, challenged the wealthy and criticised injustice. They often paid a price for their prophecy.
Last week, we heard how Jesus spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth, among his own people. The people were delighted by the Good News that Jesus brought; news of healing for the sick and justice for the poor. But today, the mood suddenly changes. Jesus tells the people that the Good News is for everyone, and not only for them. God is offering mercy to pagans and foreigners, too. The people of Nazareth don’t want to hear this teaching. They become furiously angry – who does he think he is? – and, it seems, they almost lynch Jesus on the spot. But he miraculously walks away.
Jesus would not be surprised that his teaching met anger and opposition, just like the prophets who went before him. In today’s First Reading, God warns Jeremiah that he will need courage to carry out his mission as a prophet. In the Second Reading, we hear St Paul’s beautiful reflection on love. Prophecy counts for nothing, Paul tells us, unless it’s based on love. The words of Jesus were powerful, because they were spoken out of love; words that expressed God’s infinite love for us, the people he created.