Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
August 31st, 2009

Eileen Burke-Sullivan

Theology Department
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
As we enter the closing weeks of Ordinary Time the tone of the Gospel shifts to the reality of the rejection of Jesus’ message and even of his person.  The event described in today’s Gospel seems to have taken place relatively early in Jesus’ public ministry when he returns to his native town of Nazareth and is invited to speak in the synagogue.  He already has a reputation for preaching with authority and with healing the sick.  He is known to be able to perform “signs and wonders” and yet when he reads the passage of Isaiah and then claims its meaning for his own life he is rejected by the very family and friends with whom he grew up.  He speaks with the same authority as he does in other places, but the lack of faith of the listeners makes it impossible for him to exercise the authority of God’s Spirit that fills him in order to rescue them from their blindness, deafness, or hardheartedness.

Many insights can perhaps be drawn from this text.  Certainly insights about Jesus and his ministry and insights into the ministry of the baptized who, in union with Jesus, are filled with the Spirit of God to announce good news to the poor and to set captives free.  But one that struck me today was the importance of not closing off the possibility of God using any messenger God selects to speak the Divine desire to our hearts.  It is a classic ploy of literature to use the least likely messenger to communicate the most urgent message of grace.  But if our hearts are closed to the messenger – convinced that he or she is stupid, ordinary or just plain wrong headed – we may miss the power and goodness of the message. 

I recall vividly working with a young priest when I was also quite a bit younger.  This newly ordained gentleman had both a newly minted academic degree and the oils of ordination were barely dried on his hands and head.  Further he seemed to me to act in a manner that could fairly be described as arrogant.  The truth is, he could most likely have said the same about me, but I didn’t have as clear a sight of the plank in my eye as I did the splinter in his.  Our working relationship was a bit challenging to say the least.   At the time we were preparing parish workshops together and discussing the content and who would present what.  In this context he spoke one day about the understanding that he had of the power of Jesus’ resurrection.  I do not remember what he said, or even what we were talking about beyond that sort of general topic – but I do remember the jolt of lightening-like grace of insight that I received that very nearly knocked me over.  It was a theological insight so powerful and so simple.  And  I had been straining toward this wisdom, without knowing what it was I was yearning to understand.   All kinds of connections fit together and made sense of what had been seemingly random fragments of data.  I recognized it vaguely at the time as a Fourth Week grace of the Spiritual Exercises – a deep appreciation of the Resurrection as it transfigures everything else.

It was not until a couple of days later that I acknowledged to myself that his “authority” was a great grace for me – and my attitude toward him changed significantly.  It taught me a great deal about Paul’s insight that the Spirit prays within us even when we don’t know what to pray for, and it taught me to appreciate the prophet from the local community – who won’t be adequately appreciated by his own.  That day, the Spirit of the Lord was upon the last person I wanted to hear from, and the first person I needed to hear from – and they were one and the same.  Somehow, since I have had the grace to remember this event, I suspect that I am not now listening to someone I should be paying more attention to.  Hmm . . . just who is it that is annoying these days . . . .?

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.
Let Your Friends Know About This Reflection By Sending Them An E-mail


Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook