[Homily. Chapel of the Assumption. Based on Lk. 4:16-3O]
In today’s Gospel, Jesus enters a synagogue in his own home town and announces his mission. For stating it clearly – and clarifying its implications – he is almost murdered.
“When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. “
But at the moment when fatal violence was almost inflicted on Jesus, the Gospel says, “He passed through the midst of them and went away.”
Eventually, for pursuing his mission, he would be horribly tortured and killed through crucifixion. But now his time had not yet come.
Now, in a synagogue of his home town filled with people who were familiar with his father, a carpenter, his mother, a humble housewife, his relatives and acquaintances, Jesus takes a scroll and reads from the prophet Isaiah:
“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 the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
and to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk 4: 18-19).
It was a very dramatic moment. The Gospel said the eyes of all in the synagogue were on him. Seizing the moment, Jesus proclaims:
“Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). You could hear the astonished gasps from the people. Jesus was saying to all those who for generation after generation had been awaiting the Messiah that he was the “Mashiach”, the Anointed One, the one anointed by the Spirit of God, the one sent, the one missioned to bring good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed.
He was the one missioned in our unbelieving world to say: Hey, there is a God! Come into contact with this God. He is a God of love, a God of compassion. This God: he loves you. You are gifted to respond to him in faith. He is a God offended by sin, especially when sin hurts you, and causes you to undermine and destroy each other, but he is a God of forgiveness, he is a God of reconciliation. He is a God come to bring us the fullness of life, giving us only two commands: Love God. Love one another. Believe me, the joy of your life is in letting him reign in your hearts! It is in this message that good tidings are brought to the poor, liberty to captives, light to the blind, freedom to the oppressed…
So some looked at Jesus with awe, “amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (Lk 4:22). He was as human as they, yet, speaking very simply, he spoke to their humanity in such a divine way. He was as human as they, but his Word was uttered with authority from on high. His Word was not imposed on them, yet, spoken with such compassion and love, his Word was compelling.
Others however stared at him with cynicism and disbelief. How can he be who he says he is? Is this not the son of Joseph, the carpenter? He is from our town. He is just like one of us. How can he be claiming to be the Messiah when his message is so obvious: love God, love one another? We love God, do we not? We love one another, do we not? Anyone can take a scroll and read from the Scriptures. They excuse their rejection by challenging Jesus: Let him prove himself by performing miracles here as he performed them elsewhere!
Addressing them, Jesus says, “No prophet is accepted in his own town” (Lk 4: 24). He was saying: because of your Jewish smugness and narrow-mindedness, you are unable to recognize and accept the Messiah. He reminded them: God is not confined by your narrow-mindedness. God is not limited by your pettiness, nor is God to be manipulated by your presumptuousness. Recall, Elijah was not sent by God to the Jews but to the non-Jew, the widow of Zarapeth. Recall, when there were many lepers in Israel, Elisha was not sent by God to heal the Jews but to the non-Jew, Naaman, the Syrian. God is not confined by your concept of him.
When the people in the synagogue heard this, that they in their Jewish presumptuousness could be bypassed by the justice of God, as we mentioned at the beginning of this homily, they were filled with fury. they wanted to murder him. They almost did. But his time had not yet come.
The Gospel gives us an option. When Jesus reveals himself to us as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the One who is to bring us good news, joy, liberty, light, and freedom, do we respond with cynicism and rejection, or with amazement at the graciousness of his words?