The Gospel of Luke today begins with the same words of Jesus that ended last week’s Gospel reading: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The story picks up with their amazement at His Words, and yet as we know, “familiarity breeds contempt” for Jesus’ neighbors: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” No one likes to hear the truth if it doesn’t match with their own vision of how things are. No matter how inspired His words and actions are, they don’t want to change; people don’t want to change and admit that change is needed and necessary. They look for reasons and justifications not to change and not to listen: Jesus is just the son of the local carpenter.
The Second Reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians is about the way to live that Christ brings to us all. It is a plan, a diagram—a recipe--for living a life in Christ. Every action and all our speech must be expressed as love, since “love never fails.” This familiar reading (often read at weddings), is a blue print for how to be like Jesus. “Love is patient, love is kind…” If we were all to follow these directions of St. Paul, what a different world it would be: no polarization, no division, no greed and selfishness, no marginalization and tribalism and racism—a life lived in which you would treat others as you would expect to be treated—a life of love in action. Hard to envision, but one can hope (and pray).
The people of the synagogue chose to rise up in rage at Jesus, and they drive Him from the town and lead Him to the brow of the hill in order to kill Him. Before long, we know that the Sanhedrin will also rise up and lead Jesus to Pilate, and then to the top of the hill named Calvary. We see deadly choices both times—people who do not choose for love—but who choose for evil, for their personal glory, for their own selfish perspective.
Jesus Himself ultimately makes a choice, too: He chooses death, He accepts His fate and the path for our salvation on a cross in order to save us from ourselves! By His sacrifice He chooses love to drive away hatred and evil, selfishness and sin. He chooses to be raised up so that we will also be raised on the last day—and in love asks the Father to forgive us.
In our lives we also have a choice. (Actually, we are our choices.) Do we choose to live the “recipe” of love? Or do we take Jesus to the brow of the hill yet again? My advice would be the same as St. Paul’s: Set Your Heart on the Higher Gifts! Remember We Have Been Told that by our Baptism it is In Love We Choose to Live! So Be Not Afraid to Stand Up for Jesus!