Luke 4:21-30 – Gospel for 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 3, 2019
This Gospel provides us with a profound lesson in identity, love and mission. When we narrowly define someone’s identity, there are two destructive results: 1) we are not fully loving them (as we are called to do), and 2) we are interfering with their potential to live out their mission.
Jesus upsets the people of his hometown when he tells them, citing evidence of prophets before him, that “no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Because they knew him as carpenter and son of Joseph, they are having difficulty adapting their perceptions to see who he really is. They are blinded to the reality of his true identity as their Savior. They are inflexible and rigid. In response, Jesus, certain of his identity and bold in his mission, doesn’t let it affect him or slow him down. He keeps going.
How often do we do this to the people we think we love? Place boundaries on them or box in their capabilities. Typecast them. How often do we do this to ourselves? Jesus saw beyond these limitations, both in himself and in those he served. When someone boxed him in, he moved on. And when he saw someone else who was stuck in a bad place, he jumped in and got them moving. This is how he loved.
Jesus called us to “love one another as I have loved you.” This is not a call to be nice. It is not a call to be compassionate from a safe distance. It is not a call to love in a way that we’re comfortable with. And it is not a call to love as long as it’s fairly easy and doesn’t get in the way of our plans for the day.
Jesus’ way of love is radical and personal. He deeply loved the people he encountered because he saw who they were. He got to KNOW them. He loved by challenging people to grow and change, because he believed in who they were meant to become. He cleared away the distractions and layers that were keeping them from seeing and using their unique blend of gifts. And by connecting people to their core identities, he revealed their missions.
What is mission? A monk named Gregory of Nyssa saw it as our lifelong task to find out just what part of the divine image God has chosen to reveal in us. Matthew Kelly of Dynamic Catholic will tell you that an explosion of mission happens when our talents and passions connect with the deep needs of the people of this time. Taken together, these two insights into mission present an inspiring vision.
God’s love is so vast, deep and expansive, that it takes each one of us (billions and billions of souls), together in relationship, to fully express it. And the more we understand ourselves, and work with God to discover and grow our natural gifts, the more effectively we can share God’s love with others, and be an instrument of his grace. The more we are accepted, loved and challenged to grow into who we uniquely are, the more effective each one of us can do what we are called to do.
We are called to love as Jesus did. But we have to know who we are first. Then use our gifts to love boldly, love radically, and love without restraint.