January 27, 2019 Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Jim Miller

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 NEH 8:2-4A, 5-6, 8-10

 Responsorial Psalm  PS 19:8, 9, 10, 15   

  1. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Reading 2  1 COR 12:12-30

 Alleluia CF. LK 4:18

 The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
and to proclaim liberty to captives.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time—January 26 & 27, 2019

   I wonder what it would take for you to be like the Israelites and stand from daybreak until midday listening to Ezra read aloud from the Bible?  Some of us might do it to be in the front row of a concert of our favorite singer or group.   Others might do it to watch the Super Bowl next weekend.   In 1996 when I was on a sabbatical for three months I was also treated like a Notre Dame student and I could get free tickets to their football games of which I enjoyed three all of which they won.   The one catch was to see the game you had to be in the student section and they stood the whole game!

   The people were weeping as Ezra read from the Bible presumably because they had not been living according to God’s will, but Ezra and Nehemiah encourage them “for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”

   I wonder why the Bible does not have the same effect on you—at least I do not notice anyone crying.

   Maybe we need to do a better job of preparing the readings and maybe we also need to do a better job of listening to the readings so we can take them to heart.

   Today’s gospel is a combination of two passages.   The first passage acknowledges Luke’s intent to compile a narrative of the events as told to him by eyewitnesses which he is not.   He must have felt compelled to write this gospel from the information that was shared with him by others.

   This fourth chapter of the gospel now has Jesus returning to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.   Word has gotten out about his teaching in the synagogues and everyone wanted to hear more from him.   When he comes back to his hometown the people recognize him and he must have been held in high esteem as the synagogue official invited him to read from the scroll of Isaiah.   He chose a combination of verse 61:1, 58:6 and 61:2 that described his own vocation, beginning with the fact that the Spirit of God was upon him.  Jesus did not see his vocation as that of a fiery prophet; when he claimed the vocation to announce a year of favor, he deliberately omitted a phrase about God’s vindication.  Picture Jesus, unrolling the scroll, to find the passages near the end which he was going to read.   It is said that the scroll for the Book of Isaiah would have been over 30 feet in length.   The quotes that Jesus used were from the end of the Book of Isaiah so it would have taken a while to unroll the scroll.  After he reads it he rolls it up again and hands it to the synagogue official as the people wait to see what he will say.

   The phrases Jesus read were well known.  But then he did the unexpected.  While all eyes were on him, instead of beginning to comment on the passage, instead of telling his people that they should all hope for the day of the Lord, Jesus sat down and said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

   Today’s gospel reading, with Jesus quoting the prophet, gives us an indication as to what occupied the mind and thoughts of Jesus as he performed his ministry.  He brings glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, and freedom for the oppressed.  This was the message of the prophet and to use a modern term, it is the mission statement of Jesus’ ministry.  If we want to be his followers, It is up to us to take on this mission statement as well.  This ministry is in conformity with the prophets.   It animated Jesus himself, and it should animate his followers.  Jesus does not talk here about prayer, or doing liturgy, or even going to church.  The ministry of Jesus is action in the world. 

   The time for commentaries and theologizing had come to an end.  While Jesus had been in the desert, he had rejected the devil’s proposals for how to live as God’s son and servant.  In his hometown synagogue Jesus reintroduced himself to his people.  He was anointed to teach by doing.  From that moment on, he would reveal God’s will and favor by actually being glad tidings, by freeing people, by giving sight and establishing an atmosphere pleasing to God.

Questions to ponder:  How do you proclaim God’s promises with boldness?

How does your own faith inspire the faith of others?