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BREAD ON THE TRAIL: We Need to Stop Throwing Jesus Out of the Neighborhood

By Deacon Keith Fournier
February 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

I suggest we take these Gospel accounts as an invitation to ask ourselves a sobering question - and to answer it honestly. Where are we refusing to allow Jesus into our own lives? Where are we, in effect, driving Him out of our own neighborhood?

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic online) - Yesterday, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, I proclaimed the Gospel at Holy Mass. (Luke 4:21-30) It was the continuation of the account from last Sunday concerning Jesus reading the Prophet Isaiah in the synagogue of his youth.(Luke 4:14-21)

This week we heard of the unfortunate response of the faithful who had gathered for worship to their encounter with Jesus. After initially "speaking highly of Him", they realized where he was from and began to question their initial response. They succumbed to their own pettiness and gave way to the proclivity to sin. In this instance, to the root of all sin, pride.

They wondered how this fellow, from a carpenter's family, could actually break open the deeper meaning of the great prophet Isaiah - and then have the audacity to claim that He was its fulfillment. They took umbrage at his response to their lack of faith implied in the reference he used to the widow and leper - of which they were quite familiar - in his rebuke of their behavior.

So, they drove him out of their neighborhood. They became so blinded by their disordered emotional reactions they tried to throw Him off of a cliff! They lost the gift of an encounter with God Incarnate and all that it could have entailed.

The Gospel for Mass on this Monday of the fourth week in Ordinary time is taken from St. Mark. (Mark 5:1-20) It contains the stunning and dramatic story of Jesus setting the Gerasene demoniac free from the torment inflicted upon him by evil spirits. This poor man dwelt in the tombs, tormented by evil.  

This mans deliverance should have been a cause for great rejoicing by his neighbors. However, just like those who had gathered in the Synagogue of Nazareth,they instead drove Jesus out of their neighborhood. 

There are many excellent reflections in the tradition as to why they may have responded in this manner. Most point to the involvement of the pigs in this account; the demons went into the animals and 2,000 of them ended up drowning - driven by the evil spirits into the sea.

These sources point to the probability that these were gentiles involved in pig farming and lost substantial profits in this entire affair.  They then suggest that the disordered love of economic matters can offer an insight as to why they were so blinded to the wondrous works of Jesus.  

However, what is common to both stories is that each crowd encountered the Lord and witnessed the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. Yet, they not only rejected all that could have been theirs if they had responded appropriately - they gave in to their own disordered response patterns.

In doing so, they became blinded to the glory of God fully revealed in Jesus Christ. They also missed the opportunity for their own deliverance and liberation.

We can hear or read the Gospel accounts on so many levels. That is part of the reason why the Scriptures are such a treasure. They need to be read, re-read, prayed over, and read again and again and again.

I suggest we take these Gospel accounts as an invitation to ask ourselves a sobering question - and to answer it honestly. Where are we refusing to allow Jesus into our own lives? Where are we, in effect, driving Him out of our own neighborhood? 

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