Sunday Mass: Casting Us

February 01st
Imagine for a moment that a movie producer was making a contemporary version of the Gospel passage that we hear this Sunday (Luke 4:21-30) about Jesus preaching in the synagogue of Nazareth.
Obviously, the casting director would need to choose an actor to play Jesus and a number of people to portray the residents of Nazareth listening to his words.
In such a contemporary version of that Gospel passage, you and I would be perfect candidates to play the people of Nazareth.
Those people had known Jesus for years. In fact, some had known him since he was brought to town as a child by Mary and Joseph.
We too have known Jesus for years. We were most likely introduced to him by our parents and grandparents. We learned about him in Catholic school or in programs of religious education. We grew in our understanding of him as we prepared for First Penance, First Communion, and Confirmation. And we continue to learn about him and spend time with him when we come to Sunday Mass.
Like the people of Nazareth, we think we know Jesus.
In Sunday's Gospel, Jesus proclaims that the passage from Isaiah about the anointed one of God applies to him. When the residents of Nazareth hear his claim, they find it too much to take. They ask, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?"
What Jesus was saying about himself did not fit what they believed about him, so they reject him. They even go so far as to try and throw him off a cliff.
We can be like those people. During our years of knowing him, we have put together our personal understanding of Jesus. We have given him qualities and traits that fit our needs. We have chosen certain words of his to remember and challenging ones to forget. When we ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?" we usually mean, "What would Jesus do if he were me?"
When the Church, through its teaching and preaching, presents us with a Jesus who does not match our image, we do what the people of Nazareth attempted to do. We try to push him away.
When we do that, we miss growing in our understanding of who Jesus truly is. And as he did in the Gospel, Jesus goes on his way. He gradually fades out of our lives.
We also see that happening in our secular society that regards Jesus as only a non-judgmental teacher preaching prosperity and success and not as Savior and Lord. Perhaps that may explain why Christianity is declining in North America and Europe. Jesus has walked on from those who refuse to acknowledge who he is.
A casting director looking for extras to play the people of Nazareth would not have far to look. Today, there are more people than ever who do not understand who Jesus truly is.
© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski