Third Sunday of the Year(C)
(Nehemiah 8: 2-4, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27; St. Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we have in our Gospel reading today an incident that seems to have occurred shortly after the marriage feast at Cana where Jesus had performed His first miracle, having received His mother’s blessing for the inauguration of His Messianic mission.
That first miracle meant so very much to Jesus: it was not of His own choosing, but, if I might so speak, it was recommended to Him by His heavenly Father at His mother’s prayer; and it promised the ultimate triumph of His Messianic mission by foreshadowing -- at that local wedding celebration -- His heavenly Father’s infinite goodness and generosity as Host at the eternal banquet of the beatific family of God.
Here, in words spoken by Our Blessed Lord Himself, Saint Luke wants us to understand, that all things had thus been fittingly prepared for this most symbolic and important synagogue and Christian pronouncement:
TODAY, this (supremely important and Messianic) Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.
Why does the Evangelist insist so emphatically that Isaiah’s prophecy was brought to its fulfilment by Jesus reading the prophetic passage during that Sabbath assembly in the synagogue of Nazareth on this very day?
It seems to me that here St. Luke is picturing something that St. John declared in direct words at the beginning of his Gospel (1:6-11):
A man named John was sent from God. He came to testify to the light so that all might believe through him; (for) the true light, which enlightens everyone, was in the world and the world came to be through Him but the world did not know Him. He came to what was His own, but His own people did not accept Him.
What John – considerably later in life -- expressed as a mature, you might say dogmatic, theologian, Luke here expresses as an evangelist, eager to draw attention to facts of Jesus’ human experience, facts about His Personal human relationships with His mother and His own townspeople; and in doing so he gives prominence to the ancient hopes and expectations of God’s Chosen people.
Those words of Jesus:
Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,
are immensely important for all of us today who read the Scriptures searching for greater hope in God to strengthen us as disciples in the fight against sin, and above all, for love leading to eternal life with Jesus in the family of God.
Jesus Himself once said to the Sadducees:
You are misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God; have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living (Matthew 22: 29-33);
We are thus assured that the Scriptures are always capable of present-day fulfilment in the lives of those who are humble enough to patiently wait and prayerfully listen for Him in the course of their every-day Catholic and Christian lives; and many are the saints of Mother Church whose lives were formed or transformed by such awareness and responsiveness to God speaking to them personally in the Scriptures, such as St. Anthony the Great whose memory we have just recently celebrated.
There is much else to be noted in our Gospel reading which is also most appropriate for us today.
Salvation, it tells us, begins ‘at home’, among those fellow citizens of Jesus at Nazareth and co-members of the local synagogue and the Chosen People. Likewise, any spiritual renewal for Mother Church today must begin, first and foremost, deepest and most lovingly, in the hearts and minds of all her apparently faithful children standing as Catholics and Christians before our modern world.
For too long the awareness of the individual ‘devout’ Catholic’s responsibility for the good name of Mother Church and, indeed, for appropriate witness to our Catholic Faith in God, has been downplayed to merely human endeavours to make Church-going popular, and to an appreciation and acceptance of people, not as God’s loving creation, as brothers and sisters in Christ, and possible supernatural children of God the eternal Father, but uniquely as individuals with human rights not including responsibilities; to the extent that a welcoming and accommodating relationship with others is now regarded as ample justification for a change in or break with ones response to God’s law, and even to the denial of God Himself: witness all the ramifications of modern sexual expression: gay marriage (I am not speaking in any way against same-sex friendships), sex and gene modification, abortion advice and contraception facilities, and the ever-growing lobby for the easy procurement of life ‘as one likes it’, and for death ‘on demand’.
In today’s Gospel Jesus stands before us putting first-things-first for all believers:
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, recovery of sight to the blind, (and) to let the oppressed go free.
In our modern context that means that any and every renewal in Mother Church must begin with a renewal of our relationship with Jesus, our God and Saviour, the Light and the Glory of our lives; and that renewal has to be a deepening, a ‘bettering’, as Jesus Himself said to the Samaritan woman shortly before today’s synagogue event:
The hour is coming and is now here when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship Him. God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth. (John 4:23-24)
All human beings are – we know by faith and experience – sinners; a priori, we accuse none as personal sinners, and likewise, we excuse none as being worthy to take what should be God’s place in our life. Some Jews once asked Jesus (John 6:28s.):
‘What can we do to accomplish the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them: ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in the One He sent.’
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Jesus, and our relationship of faith in Him and love for Him, is absolutely essential. We can only do good in our world for our fellow human beings in so far as we share in that Spirit of the Lord by ever-deeper, closer, oneness with Jesus.
Today’s Gospel has more absolutely essential teaching for all seeking to be and become better disciples of Jesus; in one, word:
Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.
TODAY! That one word has its very own resonance for Jesus:
It is said: “Oh, that TODAY you would hear His voice: ‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion.’” (Hebrews 3:15)
What was done at the rebellion? They heard God’s voice but they did not welcome and embrace it as God-seekers, or believers; but as worldlings they PROVOKED Him and TESTED His words:
And we see they could not enter (into His peace) for lack of faith. (v. 19)
Scripture assures us that God speaks to all human beings in accordance with their ability and willingness to hear and learn from Him ... blessed, indeed, are those who, on hearing His ‘still, small, voice’, calm their inner turmoil for just long enough to begin to learn from Him and gradually follow Him; for He is not only the light and strength of our earthly lives, He is the supreme joy and peace of our spiritual and eternal being.