Luke 4:21-30
Change We Can Believe In
by Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."  And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.  They also asked, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?"  He said to them, "Surely you will quote me this proverb, 'Physician, cure yourself,' and say, 'Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'"  And he said, "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 Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Change is usually disruptive.  Habits make life easier because, by definition, habits are designed to reduce the effort of our tasks.  But when habits are challenged with changes, uncertainties are introduced that make demands on our patterns of thinking and behaving.  The breaking of everyday routines can be annoying at the very least.  Yet change is often desirable or even necessary: a change of scenery; changes to get out of “ruts” of behavior (such as watching too much television or a fixation with iPhones); above all, changes to renounce sinful behavior.

As usual it is helpful to look at the Gospel to examine the way God changes the world.  We will find that the Gospel pattern is gradual and nonviolent, following the pattern of fulfillment before the changes of replacement.

This Sunday’s Gospel completes the Gospel passage of the preceding Sunday.  In His hometown synagogue, Jesus reveals that He is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”  For those with the eyes to see and the ears to hear, especially in connection with His reputed mighty deeds in Capernaum, Jesus is revealing that He is the Christ.  Jesus is reaching deep into the history of Israel to make His case in a thoughtful, even gradual manner.  Contrary to the opinion of many theologians of our time, Jesus was not a “revolutionary.”

Initially the neighbors of Jesus spoke highly of Him.  St. Luke reveals all “were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”  But their familiarity with Him and the habits of their relationship with Him would not change.  “They also asked, ‘Isn’t this the son of Joseph?’”  And soon they were “all filled with fury” and “rose up, drove him out of the town and led him to the brow of the hill” to “hurl him down headlong.”  He was not provoked by the rejection.  He simply “passed through the midst of them and went away.”  Such is the patience of Christ, patience demonstrated throughout the Gospels in the face of His enemies up to His self-surrender on the cross.

In the divine economy the second person of the Trinity enters into the world and fulfills the revelations of the Old Testament prophets before He replaces the old wine skins with the new (cf. Mk 2:22).  Hence the liturgy of the synagogue is fulfilled and replaced by the Liturgy of the Word at Mass.  The sacrifice of the temple is fulfilled and replaced by the one sacrifice of Christ.  And the one sacrifice of Christ is represented in the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the worship of the triune God.  The change that Christ effects is preceded by fulfillment.  For Christ insists, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them? (Mt 5:17).  For Christians, change is linked to fulfillment and enlightenment.  Grace as the theologians say, builds on nature.

In contrast, the game plan of the evil one is, as usual, a half-truth.  The radical demand of replacement (“change”) is not preceded by patience; it can only be preceded by the violence of destruction.  In our day, evidence of the diabolical plan for change is clear.  The Ten Commandments need to be destroyed and replaced.  The Sixth and Ninth Commandments protecting marriage must be destroyed and redefined to promote contraception and the “gay” agenda.  The Fifth Commandment also needs to be redefined to mandate subsidized abortion on demand and euthanasia for those outside the womb deemed to be a drag on the economy.  The Seventh Commandment protecting private property (always, of course, in the service of the common good) also need to be redefined to insist upon the centralization of economic and social power in the hands of a few, including theft from children not yet born.  The first three commandments, our duties to God, must be replaced by our duties to the state, perverting the notion of “social justice.”  The Fourth Commandment teaching filial respect and obedience (including respect and obedience to the teachings of church and recognition of the Holy Father’s teaching infallibility in maters of faith and morals) must be replaced by the infallible teaching authority of the state and its spokesman.

Underpinning the whole diabolical plan is the undermining and replacement of the Eighth Commandment.  For revolutionaries, truth can no longer be objective.  Lies are enunciated with great certainty and never retracted.  The most arrogant and often the most successful of politicians follow this path with great worldly success.  But Christians are not “of the world” as they remain in the world.  As the prophet Isaiah reveals, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are you ways my way, saith the Lord” (Is 55:8).

Following the Lord requires of each of us a profound conversion, a change in our way of thinking and living; and it requires us to open our hearts to be enlightened and to be inwardly transformed.  In other words, the Lord invites us to a lifetime of change. He does us no violence.  We are, after all, His handiwork.  The Lord does not destroy or even modify our nature.  With His grace He purifies it, in a real sense fulfills it in His love.  This is the only change we ought to believe in.

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