du Père Abbé
H O M I L Y
After his baptism by John, Jesus spends 40 days in the desert, at the end of which he decided not to begin his ministry in Jerusalem, where the center of Judaism was, but in the remote province of Galilee where he came from. There, he began preaching in the Synagogue of the main city, Capernaum; and after a first day of great success with his preaching and healing of the sick, he went again to the desert for a night of prayer during which he made the decision go leave Capernaum and to go to all the small towns and villages of the countryside. Which brought him to his own town of Nazareth. He went to the Synagogue, where he was giving the roll of the Scripture and he read the text from Isaiah: I have sent you. It is then that he said: Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.
Through these successive decisions, Jesus teaches us that conversion, to which he is calling us, consists in constantly reassessing and readjusting our priorities.
In Steven Spielberg's movie Schindler's List, which I am sure most of you have seen, Oskar Schindler tells his friend Amon Goeth that real power is not when someone uses force against others, or kills them, but when someone who has been offended is able to pardon the offender.
We have some similar expression of quiet, peaceful power at the end of today's gospel. The people of Nazareth -- Jesus' own town -- are incensed at his words and want to kill him. They expel him from the town, lead him to the brow of the hill, intending to hurl him over the edge. And then, what happens? -- nothing violent, no resistance on Jesus' part. He simply goes straight through their midst and walks away. Jesus does not refuse death, but his hour has not come. Now is the time to show love by not answering violence with any form of violence or force. Later on it will be time to show the same love by accepting death. In both instances Jesus is the one who really exercises power. The power of love.
Love, like conversion, requires a constant readjustment of priorities. Paul gives us that lesson in his first letter to the Corinthians. After stressing the great diversity of gifts that make up a community, he says that we must set our hearts on the greater gifts. And the greatest of all is love. I may speak in tongues -- he says --, I may have the gift of prophecy and understand all the mysteries; I may give everything I have to the poor; -- if I do not have love, all that is useless.
And Paul goes on describing the qualities of real love: it is patient, kind, not jealous, not snobbish. It never fails. Prophecies will cease, everything else will pass away; but love will remain.
Prophecy is the word that is common to all our three readings of this morning and binds them into one message. To each one of us as to Jeremiah the Lord says: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I dedicated you; a prophet to the nations I appointed you". We are all called to be prophets, because we are all called to continue the mission of Jesus who identified with the prophets of the Old Testament -- with Isaiah whose words he quoted but also with Elijah and Elisha, who were sent to the Gentiles at a time when Israel was convinced that it owned God's love... Jesus' message is that his mission, like God's love, has no limits and no frontiers. It extends to all.
To extend such a love, unconditionally, to all, is how we are called to be prophets.