Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
January 30th, 2022
Excerpt from
Nazareth Sequences
(Woman Dreamer, 1989)

They do not know;
they have not seen.
They have neither felt
nor touched nor tasted
the power and glory
of owning and letting go,
of being and letting be.
They have not probed
beneath the skin
for subtle signs of mystery,
nor studied the harmony
of opposites
present in yin and yang,
animus and anima.

They have not heard
life's rhythms pulse beneath
the rain-drenched earth
or whisper
in the greening leaves
of lilacs and magnolias.
They have not smelled
its fragrance
carried by the wind,
caressed by gentle breezes;
nor have they felt its beat
throbbing in the heart of a child.

No. They have seen only
boundaries, barriers
and dichotomies--
rifts between body and soul,
man and woman,
saved and damned,
divisions wide as gaping canyons,
bloody as war.

They dwell in a crumbling house,
teetering on termite-ridden frame.
Their resources dwindle in trade;
they lavish wages on refuse,
remembering neither
their beginning
nor their ending,
nor the days in between;
neither kairos nor chronos
nor things of significance.

What they know
are limits and restrictions,
brick walls without doors,
concrete cells sans windows. For them, life is function,
rote and predictable;
their god, Big Brother,
omniscient, omnipotent,
the feared puppeteer
who pulls the strings
this way and that,
jerking obedience
from wooden manikins.


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  • How does the first reading (Jer 1:4-5; 17-19) help you understand today's Gospel?
  • If Jesus were to show up in your faith community today, what sort of reception do you think he would receive?
  • Why are individuals and groups so fearful of change?
  • If you have ever had a profound experience of transformation, what was the fall-out?

Greetings, SBT Readers!

Very often, when public figures make regrettable comments, they claim to have "misspoken." Outrageous claims, direct lies, slanderous accusations and wild theories suddenly become mere oversights or slips of the tongue. This is such a familiar strategy that we simply cringe, roll our eyes and carry on, perhaps a little more jaded than usual. When a pope emeritus, however, is suddenly forced to admit that he was present at a meeting he denied ever having attended, then there is a more visceral response, especially when that meeting dealt with clerical sexual abuse. His secretary, however, attributes this to "an oversight in the editing of his statement." As a result of a 1,900 page report summarizing a two-year investigation, we now know that as Archbishop Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI mishandled abuse allegations on at least four occasions and that under his watch, sexual predators were re-assigned to new pastoral roles.

To call a direct lie an "editing oversight" is to trivialize and dismiss the heinous crime of covering up clerical sexual abuse; it also dishonors the countless victims who continue to suffer physically, psychologically, spiritually and emotionally because of the abuse they endured -- not to mention those who took their own lives as a result of the abuse.

With this latest revelation, the institutional church has lost all credibility. The very person who would eventually be entrusted with holding clerical sexual predators accountable was himself at one time an enabler of abusers. His actions have smeared the papacy, turned the Vatican into an asylum for criminals and called into doubt the church's sincerity in terms of making reparations to the victims of abuse. Fortunately, there are prophets in our midst -- the courageous men and women who have dared to come forward with their stories and who are demanding that their voices be heard. It is their pain and their pursuit of justice that will ultimately provide the foundation for a new church -- that is, for a repentant church committed to truth, justice and accountability.




Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him, amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say,
‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place."
Lk 4:21-30

All those who were present in the synagogue were amazed but they also asked, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?" The juxtaposition of these responses is striking. On the one hand, those gathered were both impressed and astonished by Jesus' wisdom and eloquence; at the same time, despite everything they had heard first hand as well as by hearsay, they couldn't equate what Jesus said with the fact that they knew his familial origins. To them, he was just an ordinary Nazarene, the son of Joseph, someone they had watched grow up. Their dilemma, of course, was trying to understand what had happened to the Jesus they knew: they couldn't make the leap of faith that was required - and we can't blame them! After all, were we placed in a similar situation, we, too, might find ourselves wondering, "Where did he come from? Where did he get this?" Moreover, if Jesus' own family thought he was out of his mind (Mk 3:21), we can hardly fault his neighbors for being confused.

But Jesus did fault them. The assembly was dazzled by his gifts but could not see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Instead of seeing God's presence in their midst, the people were captivated by externals. They were open to being "wowed" but not to being transformed, and Jesus could see where this was going-- hence his references to the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Even as they praised him while muttering under their breaths, he was aware that the people could neither SEE him nor HEAR him. Instead, they saw and heard what they wanted, clinging to their assumptions and refusing to open their hearts. In this way, Jesus' rejection in Nazareth repeated how the prophets were treated before him; it also predicted what he would face in the future.

Whenever anyone has a profound spiritual awakening, there are those who feel inconvenienced, even threatened. This is because if one member of a group changes, then the status quo shifts permanently; nothing will ever again be the same, either for the group nor for the individual. Suddenly, what was certain and predictable becomes inexplicable. Everything carries a question mark; existential terror sets in. Standing before his neighbors in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus shone with his sense of mission and with his union with Spirit. This was too much for the community -- and, sadly, would be too much for most Christian communities today!

If you have experienced rejection in your "home town," you know the truth of this. How many of your friends, relatives and community members preferred the "old" you? How many faulted you for changing, or even tried to block you from further growth? How many no longer understood you or even wanted to be around you? What was the price YOU paid -- and perhaps continue to pay--for walking in the company of the Holy Spirit? It is by reflecting on these questions that we can more clearly understand what happened when Jesus preached to his own community in Nazareth.
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Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

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