The Gospel for today begins with the words: “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” So the first question that needs be answered is: “Where was he?” The answer, of course, is that these words follow the scene of Jesus fasting in the desert for forty days. So St. Luke is telling us that Jesus began his public ministry by going to the synagogue of Nazareth where he read from the Prophet Isaiah the words that are fulfilled in him.
Jesus came to bring glad tidings to the poor, tidings of comfort and joy. During these last days of the Christmas Season, the feelings of holiday comfort and joy may be fading. We are grateful, then, that today the Church reminds us why and what we are still celebrating even if the Christmas music has already ended.
As we come to the end of this Season, we are also approaching the end of St. John’s First Letter. This letter was St. John’s answer to the Gnostic heresy. This group of separatists or elitists has been preaching that they did not need to keep the commandments nor did they need to be redeemed by Jesus because of their knowledge of God. Those who place their faith in Jesus but who deny that they are bound by the commandment to love one another – or to remain in the community – are not, in fact, believers at all. By separating themselves from their brothers and sisters because they believe that they are better than are negating their faith in Jesus.
St. John Chrysostom said that one who could not see the face of Christ in the face of a beggar would never find Christ in the chalice. In other words, our faith is not a matter of “me and Jesus.” Faith in Jesus means believing in the community, believing in the commandment to love one another, and believing that Jesus died for our sins so that we could find our way to God together, not separately.