Michael Di Gregorio, O.S.A.
Province of St. Thomas of Villanova
Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Is 19:8, 9, 10, 15
1 Cor 12:12-30 or 1 Cor 12:12-14, 27
Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21
Can you imagine what those final words of Jesus that we hear today might have meant to the people gathered in the little synagogue of Nazareth on that Sabbath day two thousand years ago! In fact, if we were to have continued reading we would have heard that initially their reaction was very positive. They spoke highly of Jesus and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. But they were also a little puzzled, for these were his neighbors; they had watched him grow up; he had played with their children; they knew him well and so wondered what this carpenter, the son of Joseph and Mary, could mean by “this passage is now fulfilled!” Jesus responded to their wonderment and their questions and, using examples from their own Scriptures, reminded them that a prophet is often not accepted by his own people. With that their praise and their puzzlement turned into rage and they drove him out of town, some of them even trying to toss him off the side of the cliff. We know they did not succeed and, in fact, Jesus went on to illustrate precisely how these words of Isaiah were fulfilled in himself.
Time and again he proclaimed good news to the poor; he opened the eyes of the blind and brought freedom to those who were held bound. He did it quite literally, of course, when he smeared mud and spittle on the beggar by the side of the road and restored his sight; when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and had the shroud removed from him so he could go free. But he did it also in ways his listeners in the synagogue that day could little imagine: giving new vision to the hearts and minds of people who thought they knew God’s plan for them, bringing freedom to those imprisoned by their own sinfulness or by their harsh judgment of those around them, proclaiming good news to those who were poor in their own self-worth or in God’s reverence for them. Jesus showed himself over and over again to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise; the fulfillment of his people’s greatest hopes.
You and I stand in a place very different from that occupied by the people who filled the Nazareth synagogue on that Sabbath day 2000 years ago – and I am not speaking geography. We know that Jesus was correct in what he said that day. We believe the things that have been recorded about him and the great power that worked in him. The Scriptures were fulfilled in Jesus and they are being fulfilled again today. In fact, they have never stopped being fulfilled.
It is Jesus who continues to open eyes – eyes that have become heavy and closed to the good things of life; to the signs of hope that exist among us; to the vision of peace that seems sometimes around the corner and at other times light years away; to the injustices and evil that continue to plague our earth – many of them due to the chosen blindness of men and women who refuse to see the truth.
It is Jesus who still proclaims good news to the poor anguished victims of oppression; the good news of a new day; of trusted friends; of a loyal, forgiving spouse; of a merciful God.
It is Jesus who never ceases to bring freedom to those held prisoner by their own unforgiving heart; by their hatred and jealousy toward another; by their fear and dependencies.
Today the Scripture is fulfilled in our hearing. Jesus continues to be present and continues to do his work.
Many of the people of Nazareth wanted to silence Jesus. Perhaps they were afraid of getting their hopes up too high – they had been disappointed too often by those claiming to be the Messiah. There may be a similar reaction on the part of many people today – we no longer have the opportunity of driving Jesus out of town, however. We can just tune him out, go elsewhere or seek a more convenient solution to life’s problems.