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Dear brothers and sisters,
Today’s Gospel, taken from the fourth chapter of St. Luke, is the continuation of last Sunday’s Gospel. We find ourselves still in the synagogue of Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up and where everyone knows him and his family. Now, after a period of absence, he has returned in a new way: during the sabbath liturgy he reads a prophecy of Isaiah about the Messiah and he announces its fulfillment, letting it be understood that the words refer to him, that Isaiah had spoken of him. This bewilders the Nazarenes: on the one hand, “all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (Luke 4:22); St. Mark reports that many said: “Where did he get these things? And what is this wisdom that he has been given?” (6:2). On the other hand, however, his fellow Nazarenes know him too well: He is one like us, they say. His pretense can be nothing but presumption (cf. “Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives,” 11 [Italian edition]). “Is he not the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:22), they ask, as if to say, “What aspirations can a carpenter from Nazareth have?”
Precisely seeing this resistance, which confirms the proverb “No prophet is accepted in his own land,” Jesus speaks words to the people in the synagogue that sound like a provocation. He cites 2 miracles performed by the great prophets Elijah and Elisha for non-Israelites, to show that sometimes there is greater faith outside of Israel. At that point the reaction is unanimous: they all get up and chase him out and even try to throw him over a precipice, but Jesus, with masterly calm, passes through the midst of the infuriated people and goes his way. At this point it is natural to ask: Why did Jesus wish to provoke this rupture? At the beginning the people admired him and perhaps they would have achieved a certain consensus... but this is exactly the point: Jesus did not come to seek consensus among men, but – as he will say in the end to Pilate – to “bear witness to truth” (John 18:37). The truth prophet does not obey anyone but God and serves truth, ready to make personal sacrifices if necessary. It is truth that Jesus is the prophet of love, but love has its truth. Indeed, love and truth are 2 names of the same reality, 2 names of God. In today’s liturgy, these words of St. Paul are also heard: “Charity ... pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). Believing in God means giving up our own prejudices and welcoming the concrete form in which he reveals himself: the man Jesus of Nazareth. And this path also leads to recognizing and serving him in others.
Mary’s attitude is enlightening in this regard. Who more than she knew the humanity of Jesus? But she was never scandalized like her fellow Nazarenes. She carried the mystery in her heart and knew how to welcome it continually more and more on the journey of faith to the night of the cross and the brilliance of the resurrection. Mary also helps us to travel along this way with fidelity and joy.
[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]
Dear brothers and sisters,
On the first Sunday of February the “Day for Life” is observed. I join with the Italian bishops, who in their message invite us to invest in life and the family, and to do so also as an effective response to the current crisis. I greet the Movement for Life and pray for the success of the “One of Us” project so that Europe will always be a place where the dignity of every human being is protected. I greet the representatives of the department of medicine and surgery of the University of Rome, especially the professors of obstetrics and gynecology, accompanied by the cardinal vicar, and I encourage them to train health care workers in the culture of life.
[In English he said:]
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. In the Gospel of today’s liturgy, Jesus reminds us that being a prophet is no easy task, even among those nearest to us. Let us ask the Lord to give each of us a spirit of courage and wisdom, so that in our words and actions, we may proclaim the saving truth of God’s love with boldness, humility and coherence. God bless each of you!
[Concluding in Italian he said:]
I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. Thank you. Have a good Sunday!