In modern psychology, they call it passive-aggressive. This is when the switch of peace is turned off and the switch of anger and violence is turned on, very quickly at times. What causes the switch of anger to be turned on for the entire town of Nazareth is Jesus telling them of their lack of belief in him. So, very quickly, they go from amazement with him, to pushing him to the edge of a hill.
However, Jesus is now in mission mode. From the time of his Baptism to the end of time, Jesus is in mission mode. He’s no longer a child in Nazareth growing up, working next to Joseph in the carpenter’s shop, or sitting next to his mother at table waiting to pray and eat dinner. In the words of St. Paul today, “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child.” Jesus is no longer a child in Nazareth. He is a man come back to Nazareth. And with adulthood comes a new way of being in the world. As St. Paul further writes about himself and for all adults, “When I became a man I put aside childish things.”
When did Paul become a man? Or when did you and I become adults in the faith? We celebrated in the Church Paul’s manhood, if you will, this past Monday when we celebrated the Conversion of St. Paul. The day he was knocked on his rear end by Jesus, was the day he officially entered adulthood, because it was the day that Paul came to know and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Hopefully that’s not what it takes for all of us.
It’s a very, very special teenager who can stand before their peers and the world and say, “Jesus is my Lord, Jesus is my Savior. And I love him with all my heart.” They’re out there, those teenagers. I’d like to think we have some at Immaculate Conception. Because that’s the day, the hour, the moment when one leaves behind the ways of being a child and truly becomes a man or a woman.
Why is Nazareth so angry at Jesus? The answer is, because they’re still children…for the wrong reasons. Jesus does say elsewhere that “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3). But the child Jesus refers to is the child who is dependent upon the higher power (parents). It’s the child who is filled with a certain innocence before the world poisons their heart and soul. It’s the child who wants to be loved, and is open to being loved by others. That’s the adult-child Jesus talks about who will enter the kingdom of heaven.
But what we have in Nazareth, and what we must guard against, are a bunch of spoiled children of adult age who have a very difficult time dealing with the truth that is being spoken about them by the greatest and most loving adult who ever lived. He’s calling them on their lack of belief in him, and they don’t like it. They ask, “Isn’t he the son of Joseph, that carpenter we all know so well?” They ask in such a way where they see Jesus as the child he used to be rather than the man he has grown into. A man in mission mode.
Sometimes this is an issue with parents and friends and relatives where they will not allow someone to grow into the man or woman God has destined them to be. Nazareth wants the 12 year-old who got lost in the Temple. They can handle and control him. They can box that kid into a corner and take away his smart phone or some other piece of technology. Instead, what they have in their presence is the Son of God in mission mode who speaks the truth…because he is the Truth. As much as they try, and a much as we may try, the grownup Jesus who speaks the truth cannot be controlled. But when he’s accepted in our hearts, that’s when we become adults and find true freedom.
So after he speaks the truth about their lack of belief in him, they aggressively push him to the edge of a hill. That’s how they deal with the truth of his words. This is what children do, as what adults who are still children will do, when they get angry. They can’t handle the truth that comes from God, so they lash out, thinking that their violence will somehow fill you with fear, and that you will back down from your deeply held convictions and Christian beliefs, and maybe even begin to take on their false ways. The only things missing from this Gospel are that Jesus is not called a bigot, a racist, or intolerant. Those words belong to the 21st century used against Christians who believe and accept the longstanding teachings handed on to us by the Apostles. This is what Jesus gets for being a man, speaking the truth, and no longer being a 12 year-old child who gets “lost” in the Temple.
Here’s how these readings speak to us. The words of Jesus Christ are sometimes difficult. Such as, ‘Love your enemies, and pray for your persecutors.” No messing around here. Is Jesus crazy, commanding us to do that? He’s crazy in love with us, that’s for sure!
His teachings at times can seem impossible. But the truth is that they are not. Otherwise he wouldn’t challenge the Nazoreans to believe in him as God’s Messiah and command us to love enemies. Which is why there is faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. Love changes the world, and it changes the world in God’s favor. To be a Christian adult is to love, especially when it’s difficult.
Christian adults do not say about Jesus’ words, “That’s not possible!” Christian adults say, “God, grant me the grace to do this. Grant me the grace to do what you command.” That’s an adult!
Adults do not get violent, either physically or verbally, when they don’t hear what they want to hear. That’s a child. And there’s enough adult children in our world.
In this Gospel, Jesus is now a man on a mission. We are called to be Christian men and women on a mission for our Lord who died for us. Put aside all childish ways, such as saying the Church is wrong on marriage or abortion. That’s an adult who is a child who has not grown up spiritually.
We live for the Lord, including all his difficult words. And when he corrects us, may we be humble enough to allow ourselves to be corrected. Jesus is a man, the Son of God inviting us into spiritual adulthood until the day we go home.