4th Sunday C
Sunday 30th January 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Jesus began to say to the people of Nazareth, his home town, ‘Today, this scripture is being fulfilled in your hearing.’ They were impressed and marvelled at the pleasing way he spoke. And they said, ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son! Who would have thought?’ And then he said to them, ‘Now you are certainly going to quote me the proverb, “Doctor, heal yourself!” and say, “We’ve heard all the marvellous things you have been doing in Capernaum. Come on, do them here in your own countryside.”’
So he then said to them, ‘No prophet is accepted in his own countryside. I am telling you in all truth, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah when there was severe drought for three and a half years and famine took grip of the land. But it wasn’t to any of these that Elijah was sent. Rather he was sent to Zarephath, a Sidonian town, to a widow there. And there were many lepers in Israel in the prophet Elisha’s time, yet not one of them was cured – only Naaman the Syrian.’
All in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They rose up, shoved him out of the city, took him to the brow of the mountain on which their city was built, and were going to throw him over the cliff but he passed through them and went away.
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 70:1-6, 15,17
In you, O God, I take refuge.
Never let me be shamed.
In your righteousness, rescue me, release me.
Listen to me and save me.
You are the rock on which I depend,
a fortress that protects me.
Your commands save me,
giving security and protection.
O God, release me from the power of the wicked.
For you are my true hope.
All my life I have trusted in you.
From my conception, even in my mother’s womb,
your care has upheld me.
I will ever sing your praise.
Each and every day I will acclaim your salvation.
You have guided me from my youth
and I will ever sing your praise.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, challenge me out of my set and settled ways. Do not let my expectations of what you should do, Jesus should do, my family and friends should do, I should do blind me to the wide mystery of love that you would unleash in my life. Let your Spirit guide me out of rigidity and selfishness into the sea of love.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
It is a shame that this section of Luke’s Gospel has been split over two Sunday’s. Together the readings form a whole which has a significant role in the Gospel. With this story, Luke sets the tone, looking both forward and backwards in his Gospel. In last Sunday’s text, Jesus told what type of anointed one he would be. He would offer the ‘acceptance of God’ to all people, especially to those who were oppressed. Luke’s signature parables – the Prodigal Son and the Lost Sheep – show the lengths to which God will go to include all within his embrace. But to be included within that embrace, one must also offer to others, what one has received from God.
The people of Nazareth welcome what Jesus can offer them. Unfortunately, they see his role as of service to themselves primarily and are profoundly offended at the prospect of salvation being offered to the Gentiles. Jesus’ preaching does what Simeon had earlier predicted Jesus would do: lay bare the secret thoughts of many. Jesus in his goodness brings out the evil which is in the human heart, an evil that is capable of the murder of the innocent. As Jesus’ ministry comes to its culmination that is what ultimately happens. In Jerusalem, Jesus will receive, at first, favourable acceptance. Then he will provoke the ire of the religious authorities and the plot to kill him will be successful…only he will pass through evil and death, not to go away but to offer the truest healing to the sinful human heart: his Resurrection Life.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
When the good people of Nazareth set out to synagogue service on the Sabbath at which Jesus spoke on his return, who would have imagined that they would have turned into a murderous mob is a few short hours? Later that day, how would they have viewed their actions? Like the rest of humanity, they would have fished around for excuses: ‘he provoked us…’, ‘I was just watching…’, ‘it was that one’s fault, he stirred them up, he never liked Jesus…’. It would have been an honest and self-aware person to say, ‘I was carried away by a mob.’ We are. We don’t have to look at the genocides of the 20th century to see how easily people can be swayed. Why look what happened with Lindy Chamberlain and the ‘Children Overboard’ affair. And we can each think of our own personal examples of when we have been carried away…to our shame.
Above I asked, ‘who would have imagined?’ Jesus would have…and yes, he did provoke them. He provoked them to show them, and us, what he really has come to do. Not to perform miracles for the crowds, not even to give good advice for living happy lives. No, he came to help us face the evil that lies in every human heart. It has to be provoked out. When Jesus does this, we do not look pretty for a while. ‘The truth will set you free’…but first it will make you miserable. Shamed we may be for a while but Jesus will not humiliate us. Can you imagine what Jesus would have done if one of those villagers had come and apologised? What a welcome!
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
I heard a country and western song recently. Its title was I’m a red neck and proud of it. I’ll be honest I really did try to listen to the words with an open mind but I kept asking myself what is happening in people who think like this. Then looking at the scene in this Sunday’s Gospel. I could well imagine that song being played on Local Radio Nazareth 101. Galilee was a populous, fertile region almost surrounded by Gentile territory. While the local people were doing okay economically, religiously and culturally they were looked down upon by the people of Israel proper. So they had a chip on their shoulder. When the local boy made good returned, they were ready to claim him as their own – their passport to fame, to acceptance. But he had some seriously strange ideas about God’s acceptance being for all people…even for foreigners, those dogs…or worse than dogs. Like many insecure people, they boosted their self-esteem by putting down another group.
‘He came to his own domain and his people did not accept him.’ These words from the Gospel of John could well be used of this scene from Luke. Yet the initial response to his preaching seemed so positive…or was it? Yes, they were astonished at his words but had they got the point of what he was saying? Jesus was talking about the ‘acceptance of God’ but their acceptance of him was dependent on him fulfilling their will – not God’s. And when they realised that God’s acceptance included foreigners they were horrified. They acted unconsciously and viscerally. They acted like the worst of…red necks?
But before I, or we, start feeling superior to that group of people, we must face the fact that we all feel inferior, have a chip on our shoulder, put others down to make ourselves feel better. Sin does that to us. Only ‘acceptance by God’ can heal us. When we know that, our hearts open and we are given the gift of loving as Jesus loved, feely, accepting all.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
- James Tissot Jesus rejected at Nazareth (click red text)
- James Tissot The attempt on Jesus’ life. (click red text)
- Tumult at Jesus’ preaching (click red text) by Maurycy Gottlieb.
- The Green Mile
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
As you go through this week, mull on the ways in which your expectations of what God ‘should’ do might blind you to the mystery that God is unfolding in people’s lives. Can you look anew at situations about which you are critical and try to see new ways of understanding the situation?
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
As you reflect back over your life, recall the events in which God challenged you out of narrow minded thinking and selfishness. Gently and prayerfully go over what happened. What were you attitudes initially? Who or what challenged you? How did you react? What led you to accept the challenge? Do you find yourself slipping back into old ways?
As you reflect on the pattern of what happened, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into being ready for the surprise of grace in your life.
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- Gather Us In by Marty Haugen
- Gather Us O God by Monica Brown
- There’s a wideness in God’s Mercy by Frederick Faber
- Centre of My Life by Paul Ingwood.