Lectio Divina: Luke 4:16-30
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 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 in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, "Is this not the son of Joseph?" He said to them, "Surely you will quote me this proverb, 'Physician, cure yourself,' and say, 'Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'" And he said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went 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. At first the people were amazed. But immediately, when they became aware that Jesus wanted to accept all, without excluding anyone, people rebelled and wanted to kill Him.
• Luke 4:16-19: The proposal of Jesus. Urged by the Holy Spirit, Jesus returns 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 in Nazareth, where He had grown up. He was returning to the community in which He had participated since He was small and for thirty years. The following Saturday, as 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 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 perspective 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; Lev 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 people who were slaves. (Dt 15:1-18). It was not easy to have the Jubilee Year every seven years (cf. Jer 34:8-16). After the exile, it was decided to have it every fifty years (Lev 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 comments on 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 fulfill the prophecy. This way of interpreting the text provokes a reaction of disbelief on the part of those who were in the synagogue. They were scandalized and did not want to know anything about Him. They did not accept that Jesus was the Messiah announced by Isaiah. They said, “Is He not the son of Joseph?” They were scandalized because Jesus spoke about accepting the poor, the blind and the oppressed. The people do not accept Jesus’ proposal. And, thus when He presents the idea 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 criticize the narrow-mindedness of the people of Nazareth. Elijah was sent to the widow of Zarephath (1 Kgs 17:7-16). Elisha was sent to take care of the Syrian (2 Kgs 5:14). Here arises Luke’s concern, who wants to show that openness stems 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 people down. Quite 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 remains 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 narrow-mindedness.
• 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 sentence 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 the sentence 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 the Father helped Him to understand better the meaning of the prophecies.
4) Personal questions
• Jesus’ objective is to accept the excluded. Do we accept everybody or do we exclude some? What are the reasons which lead us to exclude certain people?
• Is the mission of Jesus truly our mission, my mission? 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 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)