The Trap for the Preacher: Popularity!

Weekly Missionary Reflection
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 30 January 2022

Jer. 1:4-5.17-19; Ps. 71:1-2.3-4a.5-6ab.15ab.17; 1Cor. 12:31 – 13:13 (long) or 1Cor. 13:4-13 (short); Luke 4:21-30

The theme of last Sunday’s Gospel continues today: Jesus as the Minister of the Gospel. After Jesus announced His vision and mission, now we see the public reaction in His hometown. And it is a negative one! There was a bit of enthusiasm at the beginning, but afterward, there was only anger and rejection, even there was an assassination attempt on Him. Luckily Jesus could escape. The question is: Why did Luke present the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with a failure? He just started His ministry, among His relatives, acquaintances, and village people, but He failed. Why?

First, Jesus is a free Minister of the Gospel. His program was affirmed earlier, presenting the vision of Isaiah: to preach and present the freedom and salvation of humans (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus wished to emphasize that: before starting to talk about freedom and work on it, He Himself should be free too. That is Jesus’ message today: be a free minister of the Gospel! Free from what? From the demand and interest of the listeners. Free from the hope and dream of His village people. The people of Nazareth certainly would like to take advantage of Jesus’ skill in performing miracles. The socio-economic condition of Palestine in the first century was miserable. If Jesus could be “utilized”  as an asset, the village would gain a huge profit and advantage. Jesus did not want to be trapped by their hope and dream! He would like to be a free Minister of the Gospel, as it was only the “Spirit of God” that moved His preaching (Luke 4:14). He is the Son of God (2:25-32; 3:22), not Joseph’s son (v. 22) nor a country boy and townsman who could be exploited as a business capital.

Second, Jesus is a failed Minister of the Gospel. That is how the late Cardinal C.M. Martini named this pericope. For the sake of staying free, Jesus failed to fulfill the hope and dream of His listeners. For the sake of staying free, Jesus rejected popularity. How easy for a minister of the Gospel to be trapped in popularity. It is easier to tell what people like to hear rather than what people have to hear! You and I often forget that a relevant preacher need not always be a popular one: a hero need not always be an idol. Jesus asks us to be a relevant minister of the Gospel: who can make the Good News reach and change the heart of the listeners, instead of pleasing their ears. A relevant preacher is often left by the listeners, a famous one attracts the crowd. It is easier to make the listeners laugh rather than urging them to repent.

Third, Jesus is a borderless Minister of the Gospel. The attempt to kill Jesus ultimately failed, because “He passed through the midst of them and went away” (v. 30). Of course, it was not the time of Jesus’ death yet. However Luke had his own message: Jesus’ action of preaching could not be stopped, not even by His relatives and the people of his hometown. Jesus (and His followers till present time) is a traveling minister of the Gospel. He always goes out to tell the Gospel beyond city borders, nations, religion and races. Wherever the poor and oppressed are, there we continue the mission of our Lord.

(Hortensius Mandaru – Indonesia Bible Society)


Lord, our Father, I present my today prayer, thought, word, work, joy, and sorrow in the unity with Your Son, Jesus Christ, who always presents Himself in the Eucharist for the salvation of the world. May the Holy Spirit animating Jesus, also be my guidance and strength today so that I am ready to be the witness of Your love.

Together with St. Mary, Mother of Jesus, and the Church, in particular, I present my prayer for our Pope and apostle prayer of Indonesian Church of this month:

For Universal Churches: True fraternity
We pray for those suffering from religious bullying and discrimination; may their right and dignity be honored for we are truly all brothers and sisters as human beings. We pray …

For Indonesian Churches intention: Warding off the hoax
In the midst of unclear information, gossip, and hoax which easily attract our emotion, may we be able to respond to it with peaceful heart and common sense. We pray …


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