Looking Intently at Jesus
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 24, 2016
"He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up…
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him."
from Luke 4:14 – 21
They looked intently at Jesus. This Scripture that we hear on Sunday tells us that Jesus returned to the place where he grew up. Some of the people attending synagogue there would have remembered his Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13. He had probably spoken in the synagogue before this, as would have been customary. Many in Nazareth would have known his father and mother, Mary and Joseph, and perhaps had had work done using Jesus or Joseph as carpenters or construction workers.
Jesus did not emerge from a vacuum. He, too, grew up in a specific time and place and with a certain group of people. God, his Father, saw fit that Jesus should have a trade, working for some time before he was called to preach and teach the gospel. God uses the circumstances around us, that which formed us, to mold us into eternal beings to give glory to God. No matter how dysfunctional our present or past may have been, God can work all this to good in this world or the next.
We sense the incredulity of the people who listened to Jesus. We can almost hear them say as they look intently at Jesus: "Who is this that we have heard so much about? We hear he's working miracles all over Galilee! We hear that he's leaving them spellbound with his teaching. We saw no evidence of this when he fixed the table for us. He sat next to us in synagogue all these years without any evidence of talent. Who does he think he is?"
Jesus takes us just as we are. He wants to make use of our circumstances, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. Jesus, the Son of God, while traveling about Galilee to great acclaim, will experience rejection and scorn in his own town. When Jesus comes (daily) into my town, my heart, my life, will I accept or reject him? Jesus will often come in a way we are not expecting. By keeping our eyes fixed intently on Jesus and his church we can navigate this world and steer in a straight direction for heaven.
God has a plan for our lives. We are created and loved. There is more here than meets the eye. To some in this world, Jesus appears simply as a common laborer who has nothing to tell them and so they miss the whole message. But, if we look intently at Jesus, he will give meaning to our lives, eternal life, purpose and hope in our sufferings. We will embark on a journey with him that will be exciting in this world and eternal forever. Jesus can be seen both ways – it's up to us.