Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

In last Sunday’s Gospel passage, Jesus was in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth and announced the inauguration of his ministry after reading from the scroll of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to proclaim good news for the poor, liberty for captives, sight for the blind, and freedom from oppression”.

In this Sunday’s reading we find out what the synagogue audience thought of Jesus’ prophetic declaration.  

Like most, the people in Nazareth expect the messiah to deliver Israel from foreign rule and to wreak vengeance on Israel’s enemies.  And now, they want Jesus to begin that liberating and miraculous work with them first.  However, Jesus reminds them of a low point in their history when God brought famine on Israel as a judgment but saved a Gentile widow.  Jesus also reminds them of God’s mercy on the Gentile Naaman.  His message is the opposite of what they expect to hear and they are furious.

Jesus cannot accept the narrowing of his mission that the people of Nazareth would impose on him.  He cannot reserve his generosity for hometown folk.  He cannot devote himself only to the local arena.  Instead, he must tell these hometown folk a truth they do not want to hear.

Jesus’ preaching begins with the word “Today.”  The prophets conveyed promises for the future, but Jesus conveys promises for today.  The waiting is over.  The time has come.  The Spirit of the Lord is upon Jesus now.  He brings good news to the poor today.  He proclaims, at this very moment, release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind.  Throughout Luke’s Gospel Jesus will speak of the kingdom of God as being already present (11:20; 16:16; 17:20-21).

The Jewish people have waited centuries for the messiah.  They have seen God work miracle after miracle throughout their history so we would expect them to be ready to receive the messiah —but we would be wrong.  As we hear in this Gospel Reading, they are anything but ready.

It has been four hundred years since they have seen a prophet, except for John the Baptist who is preaching in the wilderness, and they don’t expect today to be the day.  It has been a long time—centuries—since God promised a messiah, and they have grown weary of waiting—like a guard fallen asleep at his post.  Jesus says, “TODAY this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  TODAY!  But they aren’t ready today!  They begin by speaking well of Jesus, but almost immediately turn on him and try to kill him.

This story should be instructive to us.  Jesus has promised to come again.  It has been a long time since he made that promise, and perhaps our guard is down—we have grown weary of waiting.  But the day will come when Jesus will announce, “TODAY!”—and everything will hinge on our readiness to receive him.

Be ready!

Adult Formation