Monday, September 2, 2013
1) Opening prayer
every good thing comes from you.
Fill our hearts with love for you,
increase our faith,
and by your constant care
protect the good you have given us.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 4,16-30
Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written: The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.’
And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’
But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself,” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own country.” ‘ And he went on, ‘In truth I tell you, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country. ‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a town in Sidonia.
And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many suffering from virulent skin-diseases in Israel, but none of these was cured—only Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him off the cliff, but he passed straight through the crowd and walked away.
• Today we begin the meditation on the Gospel of Luke, which will extend three months until the end of the liturgical year. Today’s Gospel speaks about Jesus’ visit to Nazareth and the presentation of his program to the people of the Synagogue. In the first moment the people were admired. But, immediately, when they become aware that Jesus wants to accept all, without excluding anyone, people rebel and want to kill him.
• Luke 4, 16-19: The proposal of Jesus. Urged by the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned to Galilee (Lk 4, 14) and begins to announce the Good News of the Kingdom of God. He goes to the community, teaches in the Synagogue and arrives to Nazareth, where he had grown. He was returning to the community, in which he had participated since he was small, and during thirty years. The following Saturday, as it was the custom, Jesus went to the Synagogue to participate in the celebration and he stands up to read. He chooses the text of Isaiah which speaks about the poor, of the prisoners, of the blind and the oppressed (Is 61, 1-2). This text is an image of the situation of the people of Galilee at the time of Jesus. The experience which Jesus had of God, the Father of Love, gave him a new look to evaluate the reality. In the name of God, Jesus takes a stand to defend the life of his people and, with the words of Isaiah, he defines his mission: (1) to announce the Good News to the poor, (2) to proclaim liberty to captives, (3) to give sight to the blind; (4) to release the oppressed, and taking the ancient tradition of the prophets, (5) to proclaim “a year of grace from the Lord”. He proclaims the Jubilee Year!
• In the Bible, the "Jubilee Year” was an important Law. Every seven years, at the beginning (Dt 15, 1; Lv 25, 3) it was necessary to restore the land to the clan of origin. All had to be able to return to their own property; and this way they prevented the formation of large estates and families were guaranteed their livelihood. It was also necessary to forgive their debts and to redeem the persons who were slaves. (Dt 15, 1-18). It was not easy to have the Jubilee Year every seven years (cf. Jr 34, 8-16). After the exile, it was decided to have it every fifty years (Lv 25, 8-12). The objective of the Jubilee was and continues to be: to re-establish the rights of the poor, to accept the excluded and to re-integrate them into the society to live together with others. The Jubilee was a legal instrument to return to the original sense of the Law of God. This was an occasion offered by God to make a revision of the path being followed, to discover and to correct the errors and to start again from the beginning. Jesus begins his preaching proclaiming a Jubilee “A year of grace from the Lord”.
• Luke 4, 20-22: To unite the Bible and Life. Having finished the reading, Jesus updates the text of Isaiah and says: “This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening!” Taking the words of Isaiah as his own, Jesus gives them a full and definitive sense and he declares himself Messiah who comes to fulfil the prophecy. This way of updating the text provokes a reaction of discredit on the part of those who were in the Synagogue. They were scandalized and do not want to know anything about him. They do not accept that Jesus is the Messiah announced by Isaiah. They said: “Is he not the son of Joseph?” They were scandalized because Jesus speaks about accepting the poor, the blind and the oppressed. The people do not accept Jesus’ proposal. And, thus when he presents the project of accepting the excluded, he himself is excluded.
• Luke 4, 23-30: To overcome the limits of race. In order to help the community to overcome the scandal and to help them understand that his proposal formed part of tradition. Jesus tells two stories known in the Bible, the story of Elijah and the one of Elisha. Both stories criticise the mental closeness of the people of Nazareth. Elijah was sent to the widow of Zarephath (1 K 17, 7-16). Elisha was sent to take care of the foreigner of Syria (2 K 5, 14). Here arises the concern of Luke who wants to show that openness already comes from Jesus. Jesus had the same difficulty which the communities at the time of Luke were having. But the call of Jesus did not calm down people, all the contrary! The stories of Elijah and Elisha produced even greater anger. The community of Nazareth reaches the point of wanting to kill Jesus. But he keeps calm. The anger of others does not succeed in drawing him away from his own path. Luke tells us that it is difficult to overcome the mentality of privilege and of mental closeness.
• It is important to notice the details used in the Old Testament. Jesus quotes the text of Isaiah up to the point where it says: “to proclaim a year of grace from the Lord”. He does not quote the rest of the phrase which says: and a “day of vengeance from our God”. The people of Nazareth throw stones at Jesus because he pretends to be the Messiah, because he wants to accept the excluded and because he has omitted to read the phrase about vengeance. They wanted the day of Yahweh to be a day of vengeance against the oppressors of the people. In this case, the coming of the Kingdom would not have been a true change or conversion of the system. Jesus does not accept this way of thinking; he does not accept vengeance (cf. Mt 5, 44-48) His new experience of God Father/Mother helped him to understand better the sense of the prophecies.
4) Personal questions
• The program of Jesus is to accept the excluded. Do we accept everybody or do we exclude some? Which are the reasons which lead us to exclude certain persons?
• Is the program of Jesus truly our program, my program? Who are the excluded whom we should accept better in our community? Who or what thing gives us the strength to carry out the mission which is entrusted to us by Jesus?
5) Concluding Prayer
How I love your Law, Lord!
I ponder it all day long.
You make me wiser than my enemies
by your commandment which is mine for ever. (Ps 119,97-78)