Monday, March 5, 2018
Season of Lent
1) Opening prayer
Just and holy God,
our loving Father,
You offered us Your hand in friendship
and You sent us Your Son Jesus
to go with us on the road
of obedience and loyalty. God, we often hurt this friendship;
we act as if we were not Your sons and daughters.
See the look of shame on our faces.
Forgive us, for we count on You.
Accept our thanks
for continuing to take us as we are
and loving us notwithstanding our sins.
We ask You this through Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 4:24-30
Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
• Today’s Gospel (Lk 4:24-30) forms part of a larger part (Lk 4:14-32). Jesus had presented His program in the synagogue of Nazareth, using a text from Isaiah which spoke about the poor, the prisoners, the blind and the oppressed (Is 61:1-2) and which mirrored the situation of the people of Galilee at the time of Jesus. In the name of God, Jesus takes a stand and defines His mission: to proclaim the Good News to the poor, to proclaim release to prisoners, to give back sight to the blind, to restore liberty to the oppressed. After finishing the reading, He updates the text and says, “Today this text is being fulfilled even while you are listening!” (Lk 4:21). All those present were astonished (Lk 4:16, 22b). But immediately after there was a reaction to discredit. The people in the synagogue were scandalized and did not want to know anything about Jesus. They said, “Is He not the son of Joseph?” (Lk 4:22b). Why were they scandalized? What is the reason for this [unexpected] reaction?
• Because Jesus quoted the text from Isaiah only to the part that says, “to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord,” and He omits the end of the sentence, which says, “to proclaim a day of vengeance for our God” (Is 61:2). The people of Nazareth remained surprised because Jesus omitted the phrase on vengeance. They wanted the Good News of the liberation of the oppressed to be an action of vengeance on the part of God against the oppressors. In this case the coming of the Kingdom would be only a superficial social change, and not a change or conversion of the system. Jesus does not accept this way of thinking. His experience of God the Father helps Him to understand better the significance of the prophecies. He takes away the vengeance. The people of Nazareth do not accept that proposal, and the authority of Jesus begins to diminish: “Is He not Joseph’s son?”
• Luke 4:24: No prophet is ever accepted in his own country. Jesus answers, “No prophet is ever accepted in his own country!” In fact, they did not accept the new image of God which Jesus communicated to them through this new and freer interpretation of Isaiah. The message of the God of Jesus went beyond the limits of the Jewish people and opened itself to accept the excluded and all humanity.
• Luke 4:25-27: Two stories of the Old Testament. In order to help the community to get beyond the scandal and to understand the universality of God, Jesus uses two well known stories of the Old Testament: one of Elijah and the other one of Elisha. Through these stories He criticized the people of Nazareth who were so closed up in themselves. Elijah was sent to the foreign widow of Zarephah (1 Kg 17:7-16). Elisha was sent to take care of Naaman of Syria (2 Kg 5:14). The people of Nazareth felt threatened by this. Paul makes a similar statement with similar results too (Acts 22:21)
• Luke 4:28-30: They intended to throw Him off the cliff, but He passed straight through the crowd and walked away. What Jesus said did not calm the people down. On the contrary! The use of these two biblical passages caused them to become more angry. The community of Nazareth reached the point of wanting to kill Jesus. And thus, at the moment in which He presented His plan to accept the excluded, Jesus Himself was excluded! But He remained calm! The anger of the others did not make Him change His mind. In this way, Luke indicates that it is difficult to overcome the mentality of privilege which is closed up in itself. And he showed that the polemic attitude of the gentiles had already existed in the time of Jesus. Jesus had the same difficulty which Luke had with the Hebrew community in his time.
4) Personal questions
• How do I carry on the gift of the Good News in the world today?
• Who are the excluded whom we should accept more warmly in our community?
• Does taking on poverty, oppression, or blindness (in all its forms) start on a personal level and spread to my community, or do I wait for the community to act before taking personal action?
5) Concluding Prayer
My whole being yearns
and pines for Yahweh's courts;
My heart and my body cry out
for joy to the living God. (Ps 84:2)