Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth:
“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away. Luke 4: 24-30
St. John of the Cross
John of the Cross gives a powerful description of the rejection our Lord endured from his own people, and from God the Father.
“Second, at the moment of his death he was certainly annihilated in his soul, without any consolation or relief, since the Father had left him that way in innermost aridity in the lower part. He was thereby compelled to cry out: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? [Mt 27:46]. This was the most extreme abandonment, sensitively, that he had suffered in his life. And by it he accomplished the most marvelous work of his whole life, surpassing all the works and deeds and miracles that he had ever performed on earth or in heaven. That is, he brought about the reconciliation and union of the human race with God through grace. The Lord achieved this, as I say, at the moment in which he was most annihilated in all things: in his reputation before people, since in watching him die they mocked him instead of esteeming him; in his human nature, by dying; and in spiritual help and consolation from his Father, for he was forsaken by his Father at that time, annihilated and reduced to nothing, so as to pay the debt fully and bring people to union with God. David says of him: Ad nihilum redactus sum et nescivi [Ps 73:22], that those who are truly spiritual might understand the mystery of the door and way (which is Christ) leading to union with God, and that they might realize that their union with God and the greatness of the work they accomplish will be measured by their annihilation of themselves for God in the sensory and spiritual parts of their souls. When they are reduced to nothing, the highest degree of humility, the spiritual union between their souls and God will be an accomplished fact. This union is the most noble and sublime state attainable in this life. The journey, then, does not consist in consolations, delights, and spiritual feelings, but in the living death of the cross, sensory and spiritual, exterior and interior [my emphasis]” (A 2.7.11).
Every so often, we see something like the top ten celebraties, the top ten sports heroes and so forth. We live in a world where everyone strives to be somebody. The idea of not becoming important is seen as a lack of ambition. Maybe he did not try enough. Maybe he did not go to school. Maybe he did not have the right connections and so forth.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is on the way of becoming somebody: a great healer, a great teacher, or a great prophet. Things go wrong when he reminds his people that in the past, God had shown his favor to gentiles and not to them. They in turn come close to bringing Jesus to nothing by throwing him over the cliff. In this, Jesus prefigured how he will bring about salvation to all, by accepting God’s plan for him to be brought to nothing by his own people.
We find this idea of being brought to nothing hard to take. Blessed are they who can accept and live this teaching.
God, our Father, each year you invite us to follow your Son anew in his journey to Jerusalem, and in his death on the Cross. Grant, we ask, that our practice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving may enable us to be united with him in spirit during Holy Week, so that we may share with him the joy of his Resurrection on Easter. We ask this through Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.
We invite you to add your reflections and prayers in the comments section below.
Adapted from A Lenten Journey with Jesus Christ and St. John of the Cross by Fr. George Mangiaracina O.C.D.