But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may no grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
When he 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 considered today, the first during Jesus' ministry, the second at his second coming, at the end of time. St Paul sees Christ's resurrection as a pledge of our own resurrection: For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, God will bring raise from the dead those also who have fallen asleep believing in him.
Readings from St Luke's gospel begin today and continue up to the beginning of Advent. Already in Jesus' opening address at Nazareth Luke has him proclaim, "This Scripture is being fulfilled in your hearing." This inaugural sermon at Nazareth combines some of the major themes of Luke's gospel: Jesus' concern for the poor; people's amazement at Jesus; his outreach to Gentiles; the dynamic role of the Spirit; Jesus as prophet; Jesus' final rejection "outside the city."
"This Scripture is being fulfilled." The power of God is already being felt. The jubilee year of God's favour announced in Isaiah 61, grace shining out from the New Jerusalem (chap. 62) and forecasting the new heaven and new earth (Isa 65), has already begun with Jesus. While we can experience the wonder and joy of it, such happiness cannot be possessed selfishly. It will be lost if it is not shared. We, God's people, must share our religious joy with with the needy of our time. Jesus cannot share new life with us unless his Gospel is shared with all the poor and neglected of the world.
Today's gospel begins with an account of the liturgy of the word in the synagogue of Jesus' home town of Nazareth. He stands up to read from the prophet Isaiah and then sits down to interpret what the reading means, here and now. He indentifies with the prophet who was sent to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, new sight to the blind, to set the downtrodden free. Jesus then goes on 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. He tells 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 of his mission made the people of Nazareth very angry with him. Jesus was one of their own and they expected special treatment from him, to his own neighbours. But 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.