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.
O sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
Tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples. (R./)
The Lord is great and worthy of praise,
to be feared above all gods.
The gods of the heathens are naught;
it was the Lord who made the heavens. (R./)
Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad,
let the sea and all within it thunder praise,
let the land and all it bears rejoice,
all the trees of the wood shout for joy
at the presence of the Lord for he comes,
he comes to rule the earth. (R./)
With justice he will rule the world,
he will judge the peoples with his truth. (R./)
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 kinds of fulfillment are mentioned today, the first is the fulfillment of Scripture during Jesus’ ministry, the second the fulfillment of a promise, at his second coming. St Paul sees the resurrection as a promise 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."
A series of readings from St Luke’s gospel begins today and continues until the beginning of Advent. In an opening address in the Nazareth synagogue, Luke has Jesus proclaim, "This Scripture is being fulfilled in your hearing." This inaugural sermon at Nazareth combines major themes of Luke’s gospel: concern for the poor; people’s amazement at Jesus; his outreach to Gentiles; the dynamic role of the Spirit; Jesus as prophet; and his final rejection and execution.
This Scripture is being fulfilled. The power of God is already present in our world. The jubilee year of God’s favour foretold in Isaiah chapter 61, has now begun with Jesus. While we can feel the wonder and joy of it, such happiness cannot be possessed selfishly. It will be lost if it is not shared. We must share our religious joy with others. Jesus cannot work through us unless like him we take the side of the poor.
Passages of Holy Scripture were read every sabbath in the synagogue in Jesus’ home town of Nazareth. One sabbath, he stood up to read from Isaiah and then sat down to interpret what the prophetic reading meant, right there and then. He indentified with the prophet as one "sent to bring good news to the poor" and went on to identify with two other prophets, Elijah and Elisha, both of whom ministered to people from outside Israel. Elijah helped a starving widow and her son; and Elisha healed a leper from Syria.
Jesus’ sense of service was focussed on people in greatest need, regardless of their background or social standing. His universal mission-statement angered the people of Nazareth. Because he was one of their own they expected special treatment. But the good news is that Jesus has come for us all. If he has favourites it is people in need, whether of body, mind or spirit. The Lord hears the cry of the poor. All he asks is that we receive him on his own terms, which the people of Nazareth refused to do. He is always close at hand and even our our sufferings, whatever form they take, can bring us close to him.