Have you ever experienced rejection at any point in your life? Rejection from friends, colleagues, associates or even your family? If you have not you are lucky for now. To identify with this, let us pay attention to the following story.
A flight was supposed to take off but one of the passengers was not boarded. The pilot announced that they had to wait for a man who was dragging himself as he walked to the aircraft on account of bad legs. There was no provision for a wheelchair to assist him. It actually took the man time to board and this made the other passengers to start murmuring and some cursed him for taking their precious time. Some even said that he could have started boarding hours before the scheduled time. The man finally dragged himself in and nobody smiled at him; nobody welcomed him; he felt rejected, friendless and forlorn; but he remained silent.
The aircraft took off eventually but midway to their destination while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the pilot announced that he was finding it hard to detect what was going on with the aircraft as it started losing pressure and was gradually going down into the ocean. As one would expect, there was serious commotion in the aircraft as people beckoned on their respective gods for assistance. The aircraft was heading rapidly into the Ocean, when the disabled man that delayed the take-off stood up from the farthest end of the aircraft where rejection had pushed him and started walking towards the cockpit. When people saw him they started cursing him again for the delay that brought about their ill-fate as they were heading for an “unceremonial burial” inside the freezing ocean; he said nothing and went into the cockpit to meet the pilot.
Few minutes later, the pilot announced that the situation has been put in place and the aircraft had regained pressure thanks to the disabled passenger who actually retired as a pilot after fighting the Second World War where he got the injuries that affected his legs.
By the time the pilot finished making the announcement there was silence all over for some seconds followed by a spontaneous round of applause! The disabled man stood at the middle of the aircraft and said “My dear friends you should rather give thanks to God. I was not supposed to be in this aircraft; I missed my flight and got a ticket for this aircraft very late that was why I came in last. God actually sent me to save you all beyond the rejection I got earlier”. Many people could not control tears in their eyes!
It could actually be a very disheartening experience to be rejected, especially when you have genuine intentions, when you mean good, when your entire disposition is to help and never to hinder. Rejection is a very painful and harrowing experience to contain. It is unimaginable that Jesus Christ our Lord suffered rejection on his first pastoral visit to his hometown Nazareth.
After reading the word of God and preaching, the people were amazed and impressed at his performance. However something happened that changed the admiration into an attack, the applause into apprehension, the clapping up into a clamping down. Someone just turned the story around by asking a delusive question “is this not the carpenter’s son?” Instead of focusing on the gracious words from Jesus Christ, somebody turned the focus from his performamnce to his background. Often we face such challenges and some of us get discouraged when people want to tell us that our backgrounds should keep our backs on the ground.
From that moment, the people’s reception turned to rejection. In fact, it graduated to aggression and they attempted to murder our Lord Jesus Christ. It will be pertinent to ask: “What was his crime?” We can conjecture and come up with so many things. But in summary, the obvious “crime” our Lord committed is LOVE. And he did not stop committing that “crime” till he died on the cross.
We can summarily say that our Lord was rejected not just on account of the fact that he came from Nazareth (where no good thing could come <John 1:46>) nor because of his father’s trade (carpentry) but more for his love for his people. Love is the reason for his coming into our midst in the first place (John 3:16).
In the Second Reading today (1 Cor. 12:31-13:13), St. Paul took up the theme of love and gave it an epochal treatment. Among other things he maintained that:
- Love bears all things!
- Love believes all things!
- Love hopes all things!
- Love endures all things.
- Love never ends!
A deeper look at these five attributes reveals to us that love is life and life without love is no life. In fact, St. Paul began the instruction by establishing that no matter the accomplishment we think we have without love that feat it useless. Love should be the debt we should owe one another (Rom. 13:8). It should also be the crime for our rejection like in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ in Nazareth.
The rejection of Jesus in Nazareth was actually a rejection of God which is at the same time a rejection of God’s love. The Nazarenes were very much like the passengers in the aircraft in our opening story. They rejected and ejected the one sent to save them; very much like killing one’s own doctor.
We have been considering the actions of those who rejected Jesus Christ at his home front, now it will be good to reflect on what is to be done when one faces rejection. What do you do when you are rejected even when you are on the right path? When Jesus walked away from them after the rejection what did he do? Did he go home and abandoned the redemption plan? No. If we follow the narrative (Luke 4:31-36) we are told that from the home front of rejection he went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee where he taught the people on the Sabbath and he did so in a very powerful way. That means he continued the work for which he came.
We discover from the above passage that our Lord was not discouraged by the rejection; he remained in the game. If we reason carefully we will see that the rejection was an effort to discourage him and bring his mission to an abrupt and premature end. Often when we face rejection we eject ourselves; this is wrong.
In the First Reading (Jeremiah 1:4-5.17-19) we understand from the life of Jeremiah that God had predestined our mission on earth and he did not promise us that we will not encounter rejection when we declare His words, but the promise is that He will be with us all through to protect us (Jer. 1:8).
Upon a deeper reflection, we understand that the Nazarenes just like the passengers in the aircraft lacked a very important attribute; that is love. If the love of God was truly and really in them they would not have rejected God’s love in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. This tells us that there is a difference between being religious and being spiritual. Those who attempted to kill Jesus were mere religious adherents it takes spirituality to understand and appreciate God’s love. Love is not just a religious theme it is a spiritual activity because it has to do with God who is spirit and must be approached as such (John 4:24).
Before we go, there is need for us to ponder, ask, and answer this question: “Is Jesus Christ still being rejected in our day and age? As an individual, do I in any way reject Jesus Christ? The truth is that Jesus Christ is still being rejected by many in various ways. We reject Jesus when we fail to trust and obey him. We reject Jesus Christ when we hear the word of God and fail to put it into practice. We reject Jesus Christ in our neighbours, we reject Jesus Christ in the poor, we reject Jesus Christ in the type of lives we live, we reject Jesus in our disconnection from the sacraments (how many of us will be worthy and fitting to receive him in the most blessed sacrament today?) we reject Jesus when we are more interested in the flesh than in the spiritual; we also reject him in our failure to love others as God loves us.
We are called to become the new Nazarenes by undoing the actions of the old Nazarenes of the time of Jesus and the easiest way to achieve this is to activate love in our lives. This is the basis of St. Paul’s instruction to us today. We are called upon today to toe the path of Jeremiah who was docile and submitted himself as an instrument in the hands of God. We do the same by concluding with the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi who asked God to make us His instrument of peace!
Lord, Make us instruments of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let your love increase
Lord, make us instruments of your peace,
Walls of pride and prejudice shall cease
When we are your instruments of peace.
Where there is hatred, we will show his love
Where there is injury, we will never judge
Where there is striving, we will speak his peace
To the millions crying for release,
We will be his instruments of peace
Chorus: Lord make us instruments of your peace!
Where there is blindness, we will pray for sight
where there is darkness, we will shine his light
Where there is sadness, we will bear their grief
To the millions crying for relief,
We will be your instruments of peace.
Have a blissful Sunday!