The Gadfly

3 September 2007 Memorial of St. Gregory the Great
Luke 4, 16-30 The Gadfly

The ancient philospher Socrates claimed that he was a gadfly. A gadfly is a fly that stings or annoys livestock; hence a ‘gadfly’ is someone who provokes others to think or to act. Socrates was trying to arouse those who are apathetic, or people who claim that they know, but actually don’t.

Jesus was a gadfly. His teachings provoke people to think, to re-evaluate and re-direct people’s lives. The Gospel today tells us that Jesus visited Nazareth, his hometown, after having been popular. His kababayans or townsfolk expected that He would show to them what He was doing in other places like Capernaum.

The synagogue service was basically like the Liturgy of the Word of the mass. There were three persons who participated: the reader, the interpreter and the preacher. On special occasions such as the Sabbath, there were more readers. The lessons were read from the parashah, from the Law, and the hapthorah, from the prophets. Jesus was asked to read from the prophets. So He read Isaiah 61,1: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” The response of the people to his readings was positive: all looked intently at him, all spoke highly of him, and were amazed at the gracious words from his mouth.

However, Jesus challenged their distorted concept of the Messiah — of Himself. The people expected that He would do great things for them, as a political Messiah who would save them from the clutches of Rome. But He told them that the Messiah was to save all peoples, including the Gentiles. Historically, prophets were never honored in his own country. Prophets were rejected. They were persecuted and even killed (1 Kings 19, 10, Jer 35,15, Acts 7, 52). And they were more kindly treated by Gentiles, and in return, the Gentiles received blessings from them. Elijah stayed at the home of the Zerephath widow. Elisha healed Naaman, the Syrian who was a military leader, an enemy of Israel. The examples of Jesus challenged the way people think of a Messiah: they could not accept that the Messiah was also sent for the Gentiles: that He was sent also to bring glad tidings to the poor, blind, oppressed Gentiles.

Who are the people who function like gadflies in our lives? They do not easily agree with all of our ideas. They challenge how we think. They question our systems. They dare dispute our long-held beliefs. And they confront our ideas.

These are the people whom we often react to. People who annoy us.

But perhaps they may tell us the truth. And the truth hurts. We can at least consider what they say. They might give us a new perspective. Or, a truth we long denied.

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