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3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Neh 8:2-4a.5-6.8-10; Cor 12:12-30; Lk 1:1-4.4:14-21

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were 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 in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Lk 1:1-4.4:14-21

Jesus' inaugural sermon at his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. If you look inside the word "inaugural" you find the word "augur," which means discerning or pointing to the future as in "augury." So this event does point to and foreshadow the future. And this sermon serves as a kind of programmatic announcement of what Jesus is all about -- freeing captives, healing the blind.

Initially Jesus was well-received. "All spoke well of him." But (and this gets into next week's lesson) he is rejected and the townspeople are so incensed they attempt to kill him. Note that he reads from their own (his own) Scriptures, which is to suggest that the Bible is both the greatest friend and the greatest enemy of the community of faith. Everything that would challenge us most deeply is right here, right there, in this odd, disordered and difficult book, a book that reads us as much as we read it.

Jesus reads from Isaiah both to illuminate his vocation, and also to remind Israel of its core mission or its vocation, to be a blessing to all the people's of the earth, to bring good news to the poor and healing to the broken. Jesus then makes an interpretive move which closes the gap between stated ideals and present realities. In him the two become one. "Today these words are fulfilled in your hearing." We're often okay with our ideals so long as no one insists they actually become real.

Both this lesson and the one from Nehemiah remind us of the power and strangeness of the Bible, the Scriptures, and of their function in the church and community of faith. One thing you can say for the people depicted in these stories they weren't indifferent. They wept. They grew angry. They weren't ho-hum. Maybe we aren't either when the Book is taken seriously. Maybe it's as dangerous now as then?

By A. Robinson

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* Our Way of Life *


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