Today we begin to read from the Gospel of St. Luke and will continue to do so for the remainder of this liturgical year. So once again we hear a story about the first days of Jesus’ public ministry. St. Luke conflates several of the events that we have read about in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark into the first public appearance of Jesus. Several of the major themes of this Gospel are mentioned in Jesus’ first appearance in the synagogue of Nazareth. We hear of his concern for the poor, particularly widows; the people’s amazement at Jesus; his outreach to the Gentiles; the role of the Holy Spirit; Jesus as prophet; and Jesus’ rejection outside of the city all in this single episode.
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The power of the resurrection is already being felt. The jubilee year of favor announced in Isaiah, chapter 61, which leads to the New Jerusalem of chapter 62 and the new heaven and the new earth of chapter 65 has begun with Jesus. We are already experiencing the wonder and the joy of the jubilee year. However, Jesus reminds us that it is important to remember that this joy cannot be possessed selfishly. It will be lost if it is not shared. We, the chosen people, must be willing to recognize the same messianic fulfillment with widows and foreigners, with outcasts and lepers. Jesus cannot rise to new life unless the glad tidings be sent to all the poor and neglected of our world.
When the people of Nazareth realize that Jesus is extending God’s favor to non-Jewish people, they are enraged. They are perfect examples of people who do not wish to share the joy of the jubilee year. We must reject their selfishness and extend the promise of the Gospel to all people, remembering that the Eucharist we celebrate is the sacrament which has reconciled God with all men and women.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator