Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great
Friends, in our Gospel for today Jesus reads from Isaiah a prophecy dealing with the Messianic transformation of the world. And then he declares it fulfilled, precisely in him. The audience initially is positive. And then we see why they are so favorable: “They also asked, ‘Isn’t this the son of Joseph?’” Undoubtedly, they are thinking: well, if this man is the Messiah, and he’s a local boy, we will benefit enormously! As Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.”
But Jesus commences to throw them for a loop. He invokes two uneasy stories from the Old Testament tradition, the first dealing with Elijah. During a drought Elijah is sent, not to an Israelite, but to a widow from Sidon, a foreigner. And the second deals with Elisha, who cleanses from leprosy, not an Israelite, but Naaman the Syrian.
At these key moments in its history, God attends to the needs of the other nations and not the needs of Israel. He is reminding them that Israel existed for the sake of the other nations.