Why would it be, as Jesus declares in today’s gospel passage, that “no prophet is accepted in his native place?” “Is this not the son of Joseph?” they ask; in other words, “Doesn’t he put his pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us?” Not only do the people in Jesus’ home town fail to see beyond the familiar, but when he compares them to widows and lepers passed over by God for their complacency, they plot to at least do harm to him if not outright kill him. So much for “love thy neighbor.”
Speaking of love, this is the proclamation of the famous and cherished passage we heard from St. Paul’s “Letter to the Corinthians” today as our second reading. Not by accident but by providence it holds the key to understanding the resolution of the predicament presented in the gospel. Jesus’ neighbors have clearly become jaded in their attitude and ability to perceive God’s action in their lives; they have ceased “to strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts” and to embrace “the more excellent way”—the way of love. Love, the virtue above all others, is what enables us to rise above complacency, prejudice, and the danger of becoming jaded against God’s desire to relate to us and enter our daily lives.
This Sunday, then, let us “strive eagerly” to understand where “the spiritual gifts” need to be applied in our lives and where love would obviously be “the more excellent way” to handle life’s challenges. What do the words of scriptures say to us today about the world’s problems, about how we could improve as part of “the free world” in our United States, or how we might benefit from applying spiritual gifts and “the more excellent way” to life at home, school, and work?