In our gospel from January 30th, we heard about an entire crowd from Christ’s own hometown attempting to throw him off a cliff. Its not exactly the welcome home one would hope for, but to some degree I suppose we can appreciate the sadness and offense in the rejection Christ must have experienced. Along with this reading we also heard God speak to Jeremiah about not crumbling before those whom he prophetically corrected. All of this reminds us that the good-news not always perceived by others as good-news. As a result, great violence and experiences of rejection may be heaped up against those who become purveyors of Christ’s Gospel.
It is in this context that I’d like to ask you the question: how do you deal with rejection? Lodged between this first reading and the Gospel we heard a reminder of what love looks like. Love that does not brood over wounds; love that is not bitter or envious. In this way we must seek to persevere in love amidst rejection - but it isn’t easy.
Consider Moses, one of the holiest figures of the Old Testament who succumbs to bitterness in a brief moment when he strikes the rock twice. The constant complaining and murmuring of the people led his heart to be hardened. However, blame cannot be entirely blamed on the crowd, or on an individual’s comment or action. Anger, bitterness, resentment and all the things that oppose love are generated by our chosen reaction. It is comforting to know, as failures in this regard, that we are not alone. Even Moses failed.
Nonetheless, we look to Christ’s example and the teaching God gave to Jeremiah to recognize and take responsibility over what we choose to internalize, and what we choose to allow to merely bounce off of us. Christ simply passed through the crowd, and carried on. He was not thrust into an identity crisis because of their rejection, nor did he lose sight of His mission. In these two ways: His Identity and Mission, Christ remained fortified, and thus did not crumble.
Jeremiah likewise is reminded that God has his back, and that his mission is not something created or inspired by Jeremiah, but is inspired by God. In this sense, when we examine our identity and mission as being ultimately rooted in God’s designs, our confidence in ourselves is really an act of having confidence in God. Jesus knew exactly who He was, that even in the midst of being rejected by His own home-town, a place of important origin, He merely dusted Himself off and carried on.
Let us take time, therefore, to meditate deeply and frequently on our identity as beloved children of God. We inherit through baptism the very love that God the Father has always had for His eternal Son. May this remind us of our worth in His eyes, so that those who offend, use, and degrade us may not for a second cause us to doubt ourselves. Likewise, may we not pity ourselves in such an action, but rather pity sin, which is always contrary to internalizing such dignity. Furthermore, may we not fall into discouragement in the midst of judgment and all sorts of rejection - but remember, this isn’t our mission its God’s.
While it is important for us to consider our own identity, we must also remind us of the dignity of others won for them by Christ. May this be a part of the good-news we communicate. For it is in Christ that we are fashioned.
Consider the humorous manner in which St. Jean Vianney responded to a parish attempting to chase him out of town. Discovering that they had written up a petition he asked one of the purveyors of this rejection, “Can I sign it too?”