Here is the text of my first Sunday homily from the Holy Land, given in the city of Jaffa on Jan. 31, 2016. Readings were from the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
When I was getting ready for this pilgrimage and took a look at the readings for this weekend, I have to admit I got chills. Because here we are, in a place that saw Jesus, in the flesh, walking around, talking, doing amazing things; going for a ride on a boat maybe. And we’re hearing a story in the gospel about this same Jesus, in a place not that far from here, interacting with real people in a real place.
And I think so much of what this gospel boils down to is this: expectations. What did the people expect from Jesus. A young guy that they undoubtably saw grow up. They knew Joseph. They may have even had some of his handiwork in their own homes – stuff that Joseph and Jesus worked on. “Hey, this is the kid who built my nigh stand!”
What did they expect out of him? Certainly not what they got! “Today these words are fulfilled in your hearing.” This wasn’t a simple story of Local Kid Makes Good. It was Local Kid Claims to fulfill everything that our ancestors had longed for. Local Kid, by the power of God heals people. Local Kid preaches with an authority that we’ve never heard before. Local Kid, that we saw grow up *in this land* is saying and doing all of this, and enrages some of them by what he says. They were genuinely miffed! This wasn’t like he had beat them at poker of something; they wanted to hurl him off the cliff!
They did not expect this out of a carpenter’s son!
What are our expectations? What are our expectations of Jesus? Of this pilgrimage? Of being in this land where the Creator of heaven and earth became one of us, and walked in these very places? Some of you have been here before. Others like me have never been here. But we all probably come with expectations of things we’re going too see, of the crazy amount of fun we’re going to have.
As Pope Francis has said repeatedly, we need to be open to the God of surprises. He has already surprised the human race beyond imagining by becoming one of us, and walking and talking in this land in which we are now together. May we be open during this time together to what the Lord wants to do.
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” That should take on new meaning for us this week! May we be open to what he wants to do in us, here in this land that he called home.