Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 4:21-30
January 30, 2022

It’s challenging to reflect on this week’s Gospel without thinking poorly of the people of Nazareth.

They admired the powerful manner in which Jesus proclaimed THE WORD. But, when He claimed TO BE THE WORD, they were enraged to the point of violence.

Fresh from several weeks of “epiphany Gospels,” it is especially difficult to understand how they could have gotten things so terribly wrong…during Sabbath prayer, no less! How could they miss this dramatic moment of Revelation…The Lord acknowledging His identity to relatives, neighbors, and friends? How could those closest to Him, those who watched Him “grow…and become strong, filled with wisdom, the favor of God upon Him” (Luke 2:40) be blind to The Truth that stood in their midst?

It really was challenging for me to reflect on this passage without thinking poorly of the people of Nazareth. And then, I enjoyed my own moment of “epiphany,” thanks to a movie I happened to see, entitled: “WORDS AND PICTURES.”

An art instructor and an English teacher, working with honor students attending a private school, become embroiled in a competition over the most important vehicle with which to communicate truth. The artist, of course, argues that WORDS can be distorted, misused, or misunderstood. In her opinion, only ART is capable of speaking pure truth.

For his part, the language teacher draws from the greatest passages of world literature to make his point that WORDS are by far the more significant and reliable means for humankind to communicate truth. At one point, he even quotes the opening line of John’s Gospel: In the beginning was THE WORD, and THE WORD was with God and was God.

This war of ideologies dominated the lesson plans in both classrooms. It ignited the imagination of the students. They stepped up their performance in both disciplines. As I listened to the litany of brilliant thoughts from the English teacher, and then looked at some of the amazing art being produced by the art teacher and her students, I began to wonder myself: Which is more powerful…more trustworthy…words or pictures?

At the conclusion of a semester-long “war,” there was an assembly during which the two teachers were to argue their respective cases. The students would then vote on which spoke most deeply to them: WORDS OR PICTURES.

The art teacher said very little. She simply unveiled three massive canvases. The entire student body literally gasped at the beauty of the art. I even paused the movie and sat up in my recliner so I could enjoy a longer look at the paintings.

The English teacher spoke next. Of course, he regaled the audience with brilliant quotations from the world’s greatest thinkers. He made a most convincing case for the primacy of WORDS. But he, himself, moved by the three-spectacular works of art, suggested that both work together to communicate the deepest and most important truths. WORD AND PICTURES are both vehicles of truth and are especially powerful when working together.

There was my epiphany moment.

For generations, the Jewish people looked to THE WORD for TRUTH, and it served them well. But, God understood that something more was needed in order to reveal the fullness of TRUTH…including the fact that love is more powerful than hate…peace is the natural order…death is not an end but can be the beginning of eternal joy.

And so, in God’s infinite wisdom, our Creator sent the Divine Masterpiece…Jesus Christ…into the world. Christ IS THE WORD…spoken into FLESH so that we might see what has always existed. God’s Masterpiece, Jesus Christ, works with THE WORD to inspire humankind to live as God intends us to live. The ETERNAL WORD, together with THE WORD MADE FLESH speak to our entire being, revealing TRUTH in the most powerful and convincing of ways.

Tragically, the people of Nazareth rose too quickly in defense of THE WORD. Simply put, they did not appreciate God’s Artwork. Had they allowed themselves more time to look at the Masterpiece that God had unveiled before them, they might well have come to appreciate how Jesus illustrates, through His very BEING, the TRUTH that was written on the Scroll.

God uses WORD AND PICTURE to speak to the human heart so that we may come to know and live in the TRUTH. Consider how, through The Eucharist, we hear THE WORD proclaimed and then are inspired by THE PICTURE of Jesus Christ in the consecrated Bread and Wine. There is no more profound union of WORD AND PICTURE than we experience in the Eucharist.

An extremely important takeaway this Sunday is the TRUTH that each of us is a blank canvas. Through the graces that come with the Sacraments, THE DIVINE hand paints TRUTH onto our lives so that others might come to see and believe what was written on the Scroll. When we live what we hear proclaimed, we become living works of art!