...gird your loins;
stand up and tell them
all that I command you.
Be not crushed on their account,
as though I would leave you crushed before them;
for it is I this day
who have made you a fortified city,
a pillar of iron, a wall of brass,
against the whole land:
against Judah’s kings and princes,
against its priests and people.
They will fight against you but not prevail over you,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.
The Gospel last week celebrated Jesus inaugural address in his hometown of Nazareth and the astonished reception of his neighbors, friends and family: the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. Today's gospel picks up that story, "And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth."
However, there was a lot more going on than this congregation could imagine or understand. They were happy that their native son was famous and respected, but they were not prepared to follow him as another Jeremiah, that loneliest of prophets. They did not suppose that everything they knew of their religion, their families, their occupations and their finances would be turned upside by this Son of Joseph.
He saw their reaction coming before they made it. They were about to say, "‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
They wanted entertainment.
Recently, I heard a radio commentator talking about a Republican debate; he spoke without irony of how entertaining it was. I wasn't sorry I missed it. If I want entertainment, I don't turn to politics. And yet many people use the television only for entertainment, they expect their teachers and politicians to entertain them; they attend the most entertaining Christian churches and consider themselves fed by its pyrotechnics. Do they suppose Jesus was born in poverty and died on a cross for their amusement?
How much entertainment does one need? Would two hours a week suffice, with the rest of one's time spent in work (job, volunteer, chores, etc.), conversation, study and prayer?
More? Four hours a week? Some people watch two hours a day -- that is one month per year -- to relax. When do they say their prayers, study their religion, get their exercise, attend to their loved ones or get their rest?
Saint Augustine complained about his "addiction" to the Roman circuses. He would have understood our world today very well. Even as he watched, the great city of Rome collapsed before barbarian armies.
As we set out for the deep we should wean ourselves of entertainment and resolve to live more fully. Jesus did not come to entertain. He described his mission thus:
Collect for 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Grant us O Lord our God,
That we may honor you with all our mind,
And love everyone in truth of heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.