Gospel - September 1, 2014

LK 4:16-30

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and 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 proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

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.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Reflection - September 1, 2014

This chapter in Luke’s Gospel stands at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and encapsulates the reactions his message will arouse in the remainder of the story. In Nazareth, his hometown, Jesus followed his custom by attending the synagogue on the Sabbath. As a visitor he was invited to read the passage from the prophets for that day. The scroll of Isaiah was handed to him, and he unwound it until he came to the correct passage. The complete scroll of Isaiah found among the Dead Sea Scrolls was about 24 feet long, so it may have taken a while to find the verses in Isaiah 58 and 61!

At first the people admired his well-spoken words, though he made very large claims—that the divine Spirit mentioned by Isaiah rested on him and Isaiah’s words were fulfilled in him. But soon the mood changed. Jesus himself provoked the change by talking about what the audience would probably say and what they wanted him do. Because he was in his hometown, yet sensed the listeners were critical of what he proclaimed, he cited Old Testament stories about the prophets Elijah and Elisha who cured non-Israelites, when there were Israelites who could have used a prophetic miracle of healing. Those prophets, just as Jesus was going to do, left their home areas to spread God’s grace elsewhere.

Perhaps his claims and references to non-Israelites set the audience against Jesus. Theirs was no mild dissatisfaction with a homily—they wanted to throw him off a cliff. The message was too concretely applicable to their lives, leading them to reject him and his teachings.

The story is a reminder about the radical claims of the Gospel and, however familiar it now is, the need to listen carefully and to respond appropriately to it.

James VanderKam
John A. O'Brien Professor of Hebrew Scriptures

Prayer - September 1, 2014

 how quickly the people would change their opinion of you. Sometimes you were the hottest thing in town; the next day you were despised and threatened with your life. Regardless of the situation, you remained constant in your mission and clung to your Father’s faithfulness. Please give us the grace to live with purpose and to believe in your presence, even when loneliness may seem our only companion.

Father Steve Gibson, C.S.C.

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