Fulfilling one’s calling can be a difficult task.
Today’s Gospel reading from Luke builds on last Sunday. Jesus continues to teach in the synagogue, but the community rejects him and his message, even attacking him at the end of the narrative. This reading is a reminder that fulfilling one’s calling can be a difficult task. Jesus called for a transformation in how people lived in society, preaching a Gospel of love. Not everyone was open or receptive to his ministry. Nonetheless, Jesus persisted despite the obstacles along the way, an idea that is also highlighted in the first reading.
They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you (Jer 1:19).
How do you respond to rejection?
How can you help people most in need?
Do you embrace messages that challenge your ways of thinking and living?
When Jesus began his ministry in Galilee, the community embraced him: “He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all” (Lk 4:15). Today’s Gospel notes that “All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” But they also wonder how it was that someone they already knew could have such wisdom: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” Jesus, in response, says that he will be rejected in his hometown, in a manner similar to the prophet Elijah.
Building on last Sunday’s reading, Jesus cites the story of Elijah being treated hospitably by a woman who is widowed. After the woman serves Elijah, Elijah performs a miracle to give her food to sustain her and her son. In addition, Elijah revives her son when he becomes ill. By recounting this story, Jesus once again reveals that his ministry is to help those who are poor, widowed and sick, people who are among the disadvantaged groups mentioned last Sunday. Jesus’ community becomes enraged and rejects him as he predicted, driving him out of Nazareth and attempting to throw him off a cliff.
The harsh and dangerous rejection is a reminder that many people are not open-minded, especially to teachings that might require them to reform their lives. The first reading from Jeremiah, similarly, reflects some of the dangers associated with prophetic life. Like Jesus in today’s reading, the prophet Jeremiah also faced rejection and encountered hostility during his life. Jeremiah often reacted by bemoaning his prophetic calling and questioning why God had seemingly abandoned him.
When Jeremiah is called, he is appointed “to uproot, and tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant” (Jr 1:10). Many of his prophecies include condemnations and oracles of judgment, messages that were not embraced by his community. God anticipates that Jeremiah would face rejection, so during his call and commission, God encourages the prophet as well. God reminds Jeremiah to stand strong and not be crushed by rejection, telling him that he is like a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall. Jeremiah is also promised divine support to sustain him while he is under attack.
The readings today remind us to be realistic about the challenges of the world. Jesus and Jeremiah both contended with rejection from their communities as a result of their callings. Despite the circumstances, persistence is necessary, and during the most trying moments, Scripture reminds us to remain strong and mindful of God’s presence in our lives.
This article also appeared in print, under the headline “Sacred Calling,” in the January 2022, issue.