Third Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C
1st Reading: Nehemiah 8: 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm: 19: 8, 9, 10, 15
2nd Reading: 1st Corinthians 12: 12-30
Gospel: Luke 1: 1-4, 4: 14-21
Luke began to realize that many people were interested in the life of Jesus. There were other accounts written down, but Luke wanted his account to be historically accurate and the events recorded in sequence. For this, he relied heavily on eyewitness testimony. But it is important to remember that the gospels are not simple biographies. The meaning is more important than fact or sequence.
The name “Theophilus” used in the opening text of Luke’s gospel may have referred to one specific man as it seems Luke is addressing it to him. The respect that the author gives to this man suggests that perhaps he is the “patron” who will assume the financial responsibility for publishing the writing. But one of the commentaries I read offered the opinion that perhaps he used the name which literally translates as “Lovers of God” to mean all who love the Lord and want to know more about him.
The church has skipped portions of the gospel with good reason. Today we read the opening statement, but then we skip the birth and baptism narrative (which we already heard a few weeks ago) and also, we skip the temptation narrative which will come up in a few weeks during Lent. I wonder if Luke was a little irritated at the church fathers for taking stories out of sequence again. But it makes sense. Each narrative is saved for its appropriate season on the liturgical calendar.
In the Gospel we see Jesus turning to the word. He has come back home after being baptized in the Jordan. At that event the Spirit came upon Him. And this Spirit blew Him out into the wilderness, where He was tempted for 40 days. Then the Spirit blew Him into His home territory . Luke tells us, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” The native son has finally come to His hometown . The stories of Him teaching wisely and working wonders have preceded Him. And what does He do first? He does what any good Jewish man would do. He goes to the Sabbath service at the synagogue.
This is an important moment. Here Jesus proclaims who He is, both to the home folk and to all who hear His voice. He takes up the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and turns to chapter 61. The text articulates the threefold ministry of Jesus:
The ministry of preaching Good News of the coming of God’s kingdom.
The ministry of social justice, bringing freedom to those held captive by the forces of evil.
The ministry of bringing sight to the blind, which is a ministry of compassion.
Our baptism, Confirmation and participation in the Eucharist empower us for the SAME ministry Jesus was actively pursuing in the gospels. Even more specific in the reading from Isaiah. Think about it:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… (when I allow him to be there).
He has anointed me (yes, that happened when I received my sacraments) to bring glad tidings to the poor (I could do that).
To proclaim liberty to the captives (that almost sounds like fun).
To help the blind recover their sight (people are blind in many areas, not just vision).
Our membership starts with our baptism. Remember back to Advent when we talked so much about God’s love… and how Jesus came for all… not just a few chosen people as the Jews had always believed. One of the blessings of baptism is that it levels the playing field. It doesn’t work by bringing down those who seem more worthy, by but exalting those who seem less worthy. It levels by exaltation.
Maybe the real lesson we must learn from this gospel is this: JESUS is just as present today as he was in the synagogue in this story. Present not only in the Eucharist but present in the words read. Jesus is in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth. Here is His place of origin… here is the place where He first learned the scriptures. Here is where He first lived out the will of God… here is where He turns to scripture to describe His identity. Here is where He rehearses His mission. The Isaiah prophesy read by Jesus proclaims a vision of a world God has long desired, a world of freedom and wholeness. The Good News is this gospel is that God’s desire is being fulfilled now by Jesus. The Good News for us today is that God’s desire is being fulfilled now by us……the Church, the Body of Christ. We, too, are called to bring God’s vision to fulfillment in our service of the poor, the oppressed and those in need. This reading from Isaiah is fulfilled in every single Catholic church, on every single day since it was first read by Jesus, throughout the rest of time; through our participation.
What is your understanding of the word “mission”?
Do you have a mission in life?
What do you consider Jesus’ mission to be?
Do you experience Jesus’ invitation to mission as uncomfortable or challenging? Why or why not?