The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to bring glad tiding to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, those words of Jesus “a year acceptable to the Lord” made passing reference to the jubilee of the year A.D. 28. Nearly 2000 years on, we still know something of the significance of the jubilee tradition in Israel having experienced a modern jubilee in the year 2000. A jubilee year was meant to be one of renewal and rejoicing: renewal for all whose ways had been wandering from the right path, and rejoicing for the suffering and needy who were to receive redress for past injuries and help in present difficulties. Even in modern times and among nations and international organizations overwhelmingly concerned with politics and money rather than with religious issues, nevertheless, in the year 2000 that spirit of jubilee enabled many poor nations to have their debts substantially reduced.
In our Gospel reading Jesus was just beginning His public ministry, beginning with a jubilee proclamation of the Good News that, through Him, God was offering forgiveness, healing, and salvation to His People, and through His People to the whole world. Jesus was offering and inaugurating a whole new relationship with God; a relationship whereby mankind would be freed from the bonds of sin – the source of all our suffering -- and endowed with the Gift of the Spirit Who would form us in Jesus as children of God, children for whom God would be a true Father, children who would share an eternal inheritance in heaven with Jesus. This Good News that Jesus was announcing in this ‘the favourable time’ was indeed something to be celebrated, and in this respect we should remember how Mary our Mother was urged to respond to God’s offer of a Saviour when the angel Gabriel addressed her at the Annunciation. He began telling her of God’s offer by saying, Rejoice, Mary, the Lord is with you. The Christian message, the Good News of Christ, cannot be mutely accepted, it calls for wholehearted rejoicing from Mary and from all her children.
Despite doubts and differences among scholars the words Jesus addressed to all those in the synagogue who were looking so intently at Him after His reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah:
Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,
can have no real meaning other than the literal meaning, Today, this Scripture passage (which I have just read to you from the prophecy of Isaiah) received its fulfilment as I was reading it to you.
Long ago Jesus the newly-fledged ‘son of the Law’ had been too hasty in His desire to be about His Father’s business; since then He had passed many years in humble obedience to His parents, in observant appreciation and service of the human society in which they lived, and, above all, in ever-deeper prayerful communion with His heavenly Father Who spoke to Him so clearly from the Scriptures, and in synagogue and Temple worship. As Saint Luke tells us, Jesus spent those many years in Nazareth:
Growing in wisdom, and in divine and human favour (2:52).
His divine wisdom and constant communion with His heavenly Father eventually led Him to join those receiving baptism from John the Baptist; thus giving honour to John as His own forerunner, who, as Jesus came up out of the waters, was uniquely privileged to perceive:
the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are My beloved Son, with you I am well pleased’.
Endowed with such a gift of the Spirit, Jesus had been led by the Spirit into the desert where, by His incomparable knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures, He utterly confounded the Devil in direct confrontation. His preparation for public ministry was clearly well and truly established.
At Cana in Galilee His divine wisdom and human favour enabled Him to respond to His Father and accept Mary’s special maternal blessing by performing, at her request and with great joy, His first miracle, which not only honoured her but also:
Revealed His glory and His disciples began to believe in Him. (John 2:11)
And so, the Baptist having been privately acknowledged and rewarded; His mother Mary reverenced and honoured by acceding to her personal request by a miracle which served not only to comfort her friends and neighbours in distress, but above all – in the Father’s wisdom -- served to alert her dear Son that His Father’s business was at hand and ready to be done with disciples at His side. Jesus’ joy to undertake, and His power to see through, His heavenly Father’s commission was now manifestly ready and primed.
Today, in the synagogue at Nazareth Jesus actually began His public ministry to Israel and mankind by manifesting something of:
(His) growth in wisdom, and in divine and human favour
gained among them and with their help over some seventeen years as Son of Mary (and the now deceased Joseph the carpenter) and son of the Law.
For, after He had handed back the Isaiah scroll to the synagogue attendant:
The eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at Him.
They were looking approvingly, and indeed, were speaking highly of Him since:
They were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips
What kind of wisdom has been given him? He speaks with (such) authority and power! Where did this man get all this?
We ourselves can and should ask such questions ... not in the aggressive manner the Nazarenes would soon manifest, indeed ... but with admiration, love and longing, for they are most penetrating questions and could prove most helpful for us if, in Mother Church, we can glean some answers that we might ponder and profit from.
What kind of wisdom has been given Him? It was indeed divine wisdom ... not the type gained by reasoning and through discussion and argument, but the type that must be humbly, gratefully, and patiently received, admired, treasured and protected.
He speaks with (such) authority and power! Jesus revealed the secret of His authority when He said later to His opponents:
My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glorty of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. (John 7:16-18)
Where did this man get all this? From His Father:
I have not spoken on My own authority, but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak, and I know that His command is everlasting life. I am not alone, because the Father is with Me (John 12:49-50; 16:32).
All that Jesus had was from the Father gained by Jesus as man through His constant communion with the Father in prayer, liturgical worship, and perusal of the Scriptures:
He said to (the Apostles’), ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everythings written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And He said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. (Luke 24:44-46)
He spoke in the same way to two disciples on the way to Emmaus after His resurrection, and their recollection of that occasion was unforgettable:
Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road and while he opened the Scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus has so much to offer us all. In this regard, we recall the sisters Martha and Mary, dear friends of Jesus, who remind us that many, like Martha who ‘did the work’, are inclined to accuse the Mary’s who continue to sit at the Lord’s feet in many different ways, as being reprehensibly idle. Jesus calmed the situation by making clear that although not everyone can closely attend to the things of God as did Mary, nevertheless, no one --- no matter how beneficial and helpful their worldly endeavours – can exclude such attention from their lives, because, as He put it, Mary had chosen the one thing necessary.