Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Last Sunday we saw Jesus at Cana in Galilee, where he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. It was a true epiphany. Jesus revealed his divine power and drew people to himself. The occasion was a marriage feast. Today’s Gospel shows Jesus revealing himself again. The evangelist notes that a normal activity of Jesus was to teach in the synagogue, where his ideas, at first, were welcomed by all. After he returned to Nazareth where he had been reared, one sabbath, as he was in the habit of doing, Jesus attended the synagogue services as any pious Jew did, and he used to volunteer to read out passages from the Scriptures.
Today, we are graciously invited by St. Luke to attend an ancient Jewish act of worship in the synagogue of Nazareth. The guest rabbi is Jesus, briefly visiting his hometown. An attendant hands him a scroll; he slowly unrolls the scroll and reads aloud from chapter 61 of the prophet Isaiah. The passage is an excellent summary of who Jesus is and of his messianic work. He is the anointed by the Spirit. It was well known that, in the Old Testament, kings, priests, prophets, and the suffering servant were all spoken of as being anointed. Jesus shared all these attributes in some way. Moreover, Jesus was anointed by the Spirit at his baptism and was further identified as God’s beloved Son. Likewise, the works that Jesus would perform in his earthly life, as well as his death and resurrection, are precisely those mentioned in the Isaian text. Good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed: these are the signs of the messianic age, of the jubilee year in its fullness.
After the reading, Jesus announces to his hearers that the messianic time has arrived, and makes them conscious that the Messiah is now standing before their very eyes. The words of Jesus comes upon his townsfolk like a bombshell: This very day this passage of Scripture has been fulfilled as you listen. Jesus was telling his own people that they were witnessing the fulfillment of that astounding oracle. The shock was not his assertion that he was sent to proclaim the good news to the poor, the blind, the downtroden captives. The great surprise came when he, the son of Joseph as he was known, with complete self-assurance, solemnly proclaimed before his own neighbors that he himself was the anointed prophet the text spoke about; that he had been anointed, not with oil, not by man, but by God and with the gift of the Spirit. And even more relevant, the prophetic anointment was granted to him by God to do the works that the Messiah was supposed to do. Above all, he solemnly proclaimed before his townsfolk that God’s forgiveness, grace and love had appeared on earth in his person and in his ministry. In short, Jesus disclosed that he was the Messiah whom the Scriptures spoke of so often; that he was the perfect fulfillment of everything ever written in the Old Testament; that he embodied and completed in his own person the whole destiny and purpose of the Chosen People. With his pronouncement, another great truth began to unfold: Jesus the Messiah was also God himself, a fact that was never clear in the Old Testament.
We are the new chosen people of God. We are the people, however, not of the promise but of fulfillment. Jesus is alive and active among us, his followers. He is the truth we must believe in, the way to true happiness we ought to follow, and the life we should strive to preserve and increment within ourselves. At Mass, we hear the word of Jesus proclaimed; we see how he lived; we receive him as our spiritual nourishment. The celebration of the Eucharist will be the best way to strengthen our commitment to Jesus. It is here at Mass that we pre-eminently get in contact with him. The way we conduct ourselves here on earth should give us the strength to fulfill our destiny as the Chosen People of God.