When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to procaim the year of the Lord's favour." And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" He said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Doctor, cure yourself!' And you will say, 'Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'" And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Two types of fulfillment are brought to our attention, the first during Jesus' earthly ministry, the second at the end of time with his second coming. In each case the results are due more to God's power than to human capacity, as Paul reminds us. To the Thessalonians, Paul offers the power of Christ's resurrection as a pledge that they too have a future beyond this life. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, God will bring forth with him from the dead those also who have fallen asleep believing in him."
If effective spiritual power derives from Christ, his followers will not be discouraged, even if for a time we may live "in weakness and fear." Paul's correspondence with the Corinthians reveals the intensity with which he argued. What kept him going was a personal sense of being consecrated to Christian ministry, and he felt the guiding presence of the Spirit. Therefore he was open to new inspiration, and even to changes of his mood. After doing his best, Paul could calmly leave the results with "the power of God."
Today we begin reading from Luke's gospel. With him we will follow the journeys of Jesus through all the remaining weekdays in ordinary time, from this 22nd week till the 34th. Already in his opening address at Nazareth Jesus announces, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Later in this gospel, Jesus points out that the kingdom of God is not to be identified with a point of time, nor is it "here" or "there." For the deepest truth is that the reign of God is "already in your midst" (Lk 17:21). This inaugural sermon of Jesus at Nazareth combines some of the major themes of Luke's gospel: concern for the poor; people's amazement at Jesus; outreach to Gentiles; role of the Spirit; Jesus as prophet; Jesus' rejection "outside the city."
"Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." The power of the resurrection is already being felt. The jubilee year of favour announced in Isaiah 61, which leads up to the new Jerusalem (Isa 62) and the new heaven and new earth (Isa 65: 17-25), has already begun with Jesus. We are already experiencing the wonder and the joy of the jubilee. Such happiness 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 the world.
When he read from the scroll of Isaiah and then sat down to comment on it, Jesus indentified with the prophet who was sent to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and sight to the blind, and to set the downtrodden free. He then proceeds to identify himself with two other prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who ministered to people outside Israel, a hungry widow from Sidon and a leper from Syria. Jesus was saying to the people of Nazareth that he had come for those in greatest need, regardless of who they were or where they were from. This generous vision Jesus had of his mission made the people of Nazareth very angry. Jesus was one of their own and they expected special treatment. However, the good news is that Jesus has come for us all. If he has favourites it is those who are broken in body, in mind, in spirit. The Lord is constantly reaching out to us in our brokenness, in our pain and suffering. All he asks is that we receive him as he is, on his own terms, which the people of Nazareth could not do. The Lord is always close to all of us; it is our need, our suffering, whatever form it takes, which can bring us close to him.