Sounds A Little Absurd?

He won the approval of all
Luke 4:21-30


Story of the absurd violinist

The late Fritz Kreisler, the great violinist, was walking down the street one day with a friend and the two stopped to look in the window of a shop. A fine catch of fish, eyes staring, were on display, lined up in a neat row. Kreisler suddenly clutched his companion by the arm. “Woe is me,” he exclaimed, “that reminds me that I’m supposed to be playing a concert!”

Luke’s Gospel informs us that Jesus taught in the synagogues, including the synagogue in Nazareth, the town “where He had been brought up.” It was there, Luke tells us, that all eyes in the synagogue were staring at Him. Why? Because, “He won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from His lips” (Lk 4:22). They liked what they were hearing. It was nice to hear Jesus say:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to Me, for he has anointed Me. He has sent Me to bring the Good News to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor (Lk. 4:18).

It was all cozy and nice, until Jesus made it clear to His listeners that these words of hope and liberation were meant not just for them, not just a “chosen” few, but for all persons everywhere. Jesus’ listeners lived in expectation of finding that one good Man — the Messiah, the Anointed One — who would liberate them from bondage. But they had constructed their own model of what He would be like, and the kind of example and leadership He would provide. Consequently, as Jesus continued to talk, they realized that He was trying to break down their preconceived notions of the model Messiah. And they stopped praising Him. Moreover, in Luke’s words, “They sprang to their feet and hustled Him out of town; and they took Him to a brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw Him down the cliff” (Lk. 4:28-30).

At the very beginning of a lecture series on “The Life of Christ,” a man in the audience arose and said, “You mean to tell me that this man called Jesus was born in a sheep stable?” “Yes, that is what I said,” the lecturer replied…

“And then He was raised in a blue-collar home? He never wrote any books or held any offices, yet He called Himself the Son of God?”

“Yes, that is what I said.”

“He never travelled outside His own country, never studied at a University, never lived in a palace and yet said He was a King?”

“Yes, that is what I said.”

“And this crucifixion story: He was betrayed by His own people? No followers came to His defense? And then He was executed on a garbage heap like a common thief?

“Yes, that is what I said.”

“And after the killing He was buried in a borrowed tomb?”

“Yes, that is what I said.”

“And after three days in the grave He was resurrected and appeared to hundreds of people?”

“Yes, that is what I said.”

“And all of this was to show that God loves people and wants them to be with Him always?”

“Yes, that is what I said.”

Then came the final question:

“Doesn’t all that sound rather…” The questioner paused, searching for just the right word:

“Doesn’t all that sound a little absurd?”

Jesus’ synagogue audience knew a lot about Him. He had grown up in their midst. They knew His parents. They knew He was raised in a “blue-collar” household. They knew He had never traveled outside His own country. They knew He never studied at a University. And they did not find it at all absurd to see Him standing before them on the Sabbath, preaching to them in the synagogue. (“All eyes were fixed on Him and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from His lips.”) But then He spoke some words that they considered to be utterly absurd. So absurd, in fact, that they became enraged. What enraged them so was His telling them that God’s gracious benevolence extends to all persons, even to people of other nations and other religions, even to people whom they regard as enemies.

The lesson for us is to guard against trying to keep for ourselves alone the gifts and privileges and graces we receive from God. We must guard against shifting in our seats, we must guard against raising our eyebrows, we must guard against feeling threatened when we are reminded of our Christian mission of loving service to others.

We must guard against acting as though our only concern as a Christian Community is our own survival, our own needs, our own spiritual, emotional and physical nourishment. We must guard against resisting the Gospel Truth of the equal importance of all women and men in God’s eyes. We must prepare for the rejection we may experience, as did Jesus in His native place. We must be willing to live in accordance with Jesus’ teaching that God does not play favorites.

Sometimes people are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. LOVE THEM ANYWAY!

Sometimes people will accuse you of selfish motives. DO GOOD ANYWAY!

Sometimes honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. BE HONEST ANYWAY!

Sometimes people who really need help will turn against you after you help them. HELP THEM ANYWAY!

Sometimes when you give the world the best that is in you, you may get kicked in the teeth. GIVE THE BEST THAT IS IN YOU ANYWAY!

Sometimes all of this may sound absurd to us. But never to Jesus, who is constantly trying to break down our preconceived notions of what He came into our midst to tell us — about who we are and what we ought to do:

Love one another…Love your enemies…forgive one another… do not judge one another…If you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering.

Yes, that is what He said!

What are your thoughts on this Catholic teaching?  Please leave a comment below.

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