One of the most common emotional wounds we endure in daily life is rejection. When we are snubbed by our friends, ostracized by our families and communities for our lifestyle choices, when our spouse leaves us, when we get fired from our jobs, the pain we feel can be absolutely paralyzing.
Today’s readings of the 4th Sunday in ordinary time talks about rejection. The readings also talk of rejection as a common experience that Christians will endure in this world, particularly if we lived out the prophetic dimension of our Christian faith. If we proclaim the good news of Jesus about liberation from all forms of oppression, freedom, justice, love and truth, we will face stiff opposition and suffer rejection from the world. This is because often the values and standards of the world runs in conflict with the values and standards of the Kingdom of God.
In the first reading, Yahweh, our Lord, warned Jeremiah that he will constantly incur the hostility of the kings, princes, priests, and people of Judah. In the face of opposition, Jeremiah frequently fled to God for refuge. Yahweh comforted him,
Be not crushed on their account,
as though I would leave you crushed before them;
for it is I this day
who have made you a fortified city,
a pillar of iron, a wall of brass,
against the whole land:
against Judah’s kings and princes,
against its priests and people.
They will fight against you but not prevail over you,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.
In the gospel today, which is the continuation of the gospel last Sunday, Jesus identified his mission with the prophetic tradition. By telling his own town’s mates that the prophecy of Isaiah about bringing glad tidings of freedom for captives and the oppressed, sight for the blind are fulfilled today, Jesus clearly identified himself as a prophet. Because of this, his own town’s mates rejected Jesus and wanted to destroy him.
For in Jewish society, it was customary for a son to carry on his father’s trade and his grandfather’s name. No one was ever expected to become something better than or to improve on the lot of the parents. This fact is the basic foundation of honor. For Jesus to step shamefully beyond His family boundaries would be quite a scandal. In the Mediterranean world, the basic rule is “look after your family first”. Jesus also broke this rule. He healed the sick outside of His home town.
So his town’s mates tried to push him out to a cliff. But he escaped somehow. The crowd’s reaction foreshadows Jesus’ passion and death, as well as His escape to continue His journey points ahead to Easter victory and the continuing spread of God’s word.
Today, those who dared to be prophets also suffered rejection even death. Martin Luther King died for promoting the equality of all human beings irrespective of race. Mahatma Gandhi died because, as a Hindu, he was friendly with Muslims. Bishop Oscar Romero was shot and killed during the consecration at the mass because he denounced the exploitation of the poor. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged by Hitler because he attacked the racist evils of Nazism. Our very own Redemptorist Fr. Rudy Romano was abducted by military men because of his work for the poor and defense of human rights. Until now he remains missing, presumed to be dead.
A prophet will not be honored in this world, even his own will disown him. Because a prophet talks about values which the lords of this world abhors and are terrified–justice, freedom, truth, and love. These are also the same values which God in Jesus Christ also died for. A prophet talks about values not of this world, about power not of earthly authorities, but of values and power of a totally different kind, a new world that is to come through Jesus Christ.
The theology of baptism describes our own Christian baptism as a participation in Jesus’ role of prophet. Thus, every Christian by virtue of his/her baptism, is called to be a prophet. We are called to proclaim the Gospel in our families, in our working places, among our friends, in our society. Whatever is happening we have to be ready to proclaim and defend truth, love, justice, freedom, people’s rights and dignity. We cannot compromise or keep silent in the face of evil and values contrary to the gospel.
We don’t have to die a prophet or martyr’s death in order to be prophet. We can be a “lesser prophet” and get small things changed in our world. We can be bold enough to stand for truth and voice out if there is something wrong within our office, our family, our parish, our society, our government, and world order. We can be prophets by contributing our talents towards building a better and more just, free and peaceful family, community, parish and society.
Lord help us to master our pride, conquer our desire for security, and delight in the new and creative ways that your Kingdom is present in the chaos and gloom of our world. Let us be your prophets today!