Gospel for January 24th, 2016: Excerpted from “The Prologue,” “The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry,” and “The Rejection at Nazareth”
Luke 1: 1-4; Luke 4: 14-21
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
By juxtaposing passages from both Chapters 1 and 4 in Luke’s gospel, this reading requires more active inference than passages of the same length that come from the same gospel source. What is the connection between Luke’s introduction where he states his purpose for writing a new gospel and this scene where Jesus enters the synagogue and reads from Isaiah? The structure of today’s reading begs an answer.
Lines 1-4 (Chpt. 1) state Luke’s purpose as “to write it [a new gospel of Jesus’s life] down in an orderly sequence” for his friend, Theophilus, a fellow Christian. He claims his reason is so that Theophilus may “realize the certainty” of the teachings he has received (4). Implicit in this statement is the belief that faith in Jesus as savior will be accepted after contemplation of Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension. This insight should affect the intensity of our attention for the gospel reading at mass, the climax of the liturgy of the Word, and encourage us to read the Gospels often to combat the seeds of doubt that may be sown as we as wrestle with the contrary wisdom of the world.
This concept is elaborated on with the episode of Jesus reading the Old Testament prophesy in the temple. Isaiah foretells Jesus’s mission “to bring glad tidings to the poor…, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4: 18-19). In short, He is announcing His incarnation as Messiah to His people. Furthermore, all the promises of salvation from the passage he states are fulfilled in their hearing. For those present in the synagogue, the fulfillment is Jesus’s arrival in their midst. And yet, like His baptism, the Wedding at Cana, and His sharing of the Last Supper which initiated sacraments of the Church, Jesus is revealing a means for us today to be close to Him as well through scriptural reading. While reading the gospels is instructive, it is much more than that. It is a walk with the Incarnate Word, Jesus. Everything about Jesus’s life described in the gospel is the fulfillment of the promise of a savior. The truth of that promise and the hope it instills takes deep root in us to ward off doubt and fear when we too announce His story wherever and whenever we read or hear His words.