Scripture Reading for Today: Luke 4:14-22 (read it here)
Jesus’ ministry is well underway before he visits his boyhood hometown synagogue in Nazareth. We don’t know which synagogues he visited or what he taught, but we are informed that he has done impressive work in Capernaum, his hometown, as an adult.
Jesus’ visit to Nazareth is just that—a visit. However, it is the visit of a hometown boy made good. Some people are proud of him; others are curious, and still others are dismissive or jealous.
On the Sabbath day, Jesus goes to the synagogue, as he had for years. In the synagogue, there was no professional clergy. The president of the synagogue would invite someone to comment on the scriptures. The main suspense would be whether someone would have to correct him. But when Jesus speaks, it is a different experience, because he speaks with authority.
Jesus reads from Isaiah 61:1-2, but he omits the phrase which speaks of “the day of vengeance of our God,” because the emphasis of his Nazareth homily is salvation and not judgment.
Jesus talks about his mission to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed—categories that indicate the breadth of his concern for people in need. And, by directing his good news to these people, Jesus asserts that even these “outsiders” are the objects of divine grace.
Luke illustrates what this means by relating accounts of Jesus freeing a man possessed by a demon, restoring the sight of the blind, and offering others release from the prison of pain and dark despair.
And Isaiah’s description of a period of favor and deliverance is now used to proclaim the presence of Jesus and the new mode of salvation that is to come in him.
The people of Israel have waited for centuries for the fulfillment of promises that God made throughout their history, beginning with Abraham. Now Jesus declares that the wait is over, that the day has come, that the promises are fulfilled, and that salvation is near. This is indeed good news.
These few verses from Isaiah declare Jesus’ mission statement, his guiding beacon to bring relief to the needy and powerless. It is also the church’s commission. And throughout the Gospel we see Jesus and the church bringing good news, proclaiming release, restoring sight, and freeing the oppressed.
In the Eucharist we also experience Jesus’ presence among us—curing our wounds, opening our eyes and ears, and announcing freedom from our past and strength for the future.
Let us take our commission to love the unlovely and to serve the undeserving seriously.
With Mary’s help, let us also free ourselves from the chains of selfishness, resentment, and pride.
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Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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