In today’s Gospel Our Lord, by explaining that the prophecy of Isaiah that he had just read for them refers to him, tells his family and friends in the synagogue of his home town that he is the Christ (which literally means “the anointed one”). They weren’t just impressed by his eloquence; they were amazed, and they had heard of the signs that he had performed away from home. In the end they wanted to rely on seeing a miracle to really believe it: they remembered that he is Joseph’s son, therefore descended from the line of David (an important characteristic of the Messiah), but, as the Gospel of John recalls, people were also confused that the Messiah should come from Nazareth instead of Bethlehem (see John 7:42). They didn’t seek to understand and take Jesus’ words on faith; they wanted some flashy proof, or maybe just something to gossip about.
Jesus, using the model with which they were the most familiar, explains in terms of the prophets. He mentions two of the most flashy prophets in terms of miracles–Elijah and Elisha–but he also reminds them that those prophets worked their miracles far from home, when Israel was in dire need and also being punished for its sins. Gauging from their reaction they interpreted Jesus’ words as saying that they weren’t entitled to a miracle, that they weren’t in bad enough a shape to deserve it, and possibly that they needed to repent if they really wanted to improve their situation. As the account goes, they were not happy.
Our Lord reminds us today that faith is always the first step. He is free to affirm our faith however he wishes, because he reveals himself when and how he wishes. Let’s not get locked into expecting a certain thing from him in order to believe; rather, let’s listen in faith to whatever he wants to reveal to us and be grateful that he has revealed himself.
Readings: 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; Psalm 96:1, 3–5, 11–13; Luke 4:16–30. See also 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.