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.
Lord, how I love your law.
It is always in my mind.
Your command makes me wiser than my foes,
for it is with me forever. (R./)
I have more insight than all my teachers
as I ponder your law..
I have more discernment than the elders,
because I keep your precepts. (R./)
On evil paths I refuse to walk,
that I may obey your word.
From your decrees I do not turn away,
for you have instructed me. (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.
Paul talks about the hopeful outlook that kept him going in his apostolic work. In all his activity he felt under the power of the cross and the impulse of the Holy Spirit. His faith in Christ crucified helped him to bear every difficulty, even if sometimes he felt fear or weakness. After doing his best, he confidently left the rest to "the power of God.
Today we begin readings from Saint Luke's gospel. With him we will follow the journeys of Jesus all through the next series of Sundays, from this 22nd week till the 34th. In his opening address at Nazareth Jesus says, "Today this prophecy is being fulfilled..." Later he will say that the kingdom of God is not coming at a point of time. It is not a future but is "already among you"(Lk 17:21). What Jesus said in the Nazareth synagogue includes the major themes of Luke's gospel: Caring for the poor, an outreach to people of other nations, the inspiring power of the Spirit. But Jesus was not accepted as a prophet in his own town. They end by driving him our and threatening his life.
"Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." This hopeful announcement remains true. The Lor'd Spirit continues to invite us to be glad in God's presence, and to make our own the project that motivated Jesus, to bring help where it is needed and help to free the oppressed; in short, to do our part for justice and peace in our world.
When he read from the scroll of Isaiah and then sat down to comment on the reading, Jesus indentified with the prophet who was sent to bring good news to the poor, to bring freedom to captives and sight to the blind, and set the downtrodden free. He identified himself with two famous prophets, Elijah and Elisha, both of whom ministered to people outside Israel. Jesus wants to work with people in greatest need, wherever they were.
Oddly, stating this broad scope for his mission made the villagers of Nazareth angry. Since he was one of their own they expected to get special treatment from him. But Jesus has come for all. His aims have not changed. If he has any favourites it is those who are most needy in body, mind, or spirit. He still reaches out to those who need him. All he asks is that we receive him on his own terms, which the Nazareth villagers 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.