In his homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, Father Hanly starts the two-part story of what happened when Jesus returned to Nazareth and revealed he was The Messiah.
Readings for Mass
First Reading: Nehemiah 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 19:8, 9, 10, 15
Second Reading: First Corinthians 12:12-30 or 12:12-14, 27
Gospel: Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Recording of Gospel
Recording of Homily
Transcript of Homily
The first half is really the beginning of Luke’s gospel. And in the first half of the reading today, he speaks of why he is writing down all these things. And he is writing to Theophilus, who was probably someone very well known, very eminent, and someone who was either a Christian or preparing to be a Christian. And so Luke tells us why he is writing the gospel.
Then, suddenly, we get one of the most dramatic parts of the whole story of the coming of Christ. And, of course, that is when he goes home for the first time after he returns from his baptism. He comes home to his home village and his home town.
You remember that Mary and Joseph were really from the town of Nazareth. They were born and raised there. It was the place where their families had spent generations. So it was their home village and their home town and they were well known.
Because of Christmas, of course, we think of Bethlehem where the child was born. But we forget that they had to journey, the mother and the stepfather, they had to journey from Nazareth to go down to Bethlehem. But the Annunciation, when Mary was told that she would become the mother of the Messiah, this event took place, of course, in Nazareth.
Now Jesus is already thirty years old when we meet him in today’s gospel. He’s already been baptised by John the Baptist. He has spent some time in the Jerusalem area. He has been preaching, according to today’s reading, throughout the area in various synagogues and that in Galilee. And now he comes to his own home, his own place where he grew up.
And, as you know, he grew up as a carpenter’s son who was learning to be a carpenter. A carpenter in those days was a man who did mostly furnishing houses. The houses were very poor. It was tables and chairs and benches and such stuff that he was trained to do, and I’m sure he did it very well. He was just, in a sense, taken for granted, rather special, very clever I am sure.
But then when he comes back from his journey around the various villages, he already has a bit of a reputation in Galilee. And when he comes home to Nazareth this time, the people recognise, it’s like a home kid who has done well, they recognised the fact that he is beginning to make a name for himself as an itinerant preacher.
And so when he enters the synagogue on the Saturday, they pass to him the scroll. It means that they want him, as an honoured guest now as well as a member of the village, to read from the Old Testament. And, of course, he receives the scroll and, as Luke tells us, he opens the scroll and he opens it to a very special point in Isaiah the prophet.
And, of course, Isaiah, we all know, is the great prophet who speaks very often and very frequently and describes in great detail the Messiah. The Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the one who is to come, the one in whom is locked all the hopes of thousands of years of praying and yearning, and thousands of years of history of a people who would endure all kinds of difficulties for the day that would come when the Messiah would be sent.
And so you can imagine when Jesus took up the reading and this is what he reads:
“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.”
This, as everybody in the room knows, is a description of the great day when the Messiah will be sent to redeem and save God’s people.
And then Luke writes:
“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.’”
You can imagine what happened when he said those words. There was a great silence. There was a feeling of awe and wonder and possibility… and I’m afraid you’re going to have to come back next Sunday for the second part of the story, because it has a second part. And both parts are very essential, because not only will the Messiah lay claim, Jesus himself lays claim to being the Messiah, but what it means, not only for the little town of Nazareth, but also for the whole world.
Part of understanding what the Messiah means, of course, part of understanding this, is to understand…and I’ll go through the reading, bit by bit:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” It means that the Holy Spirit has come upon this Jesus of Nazareth and he has been filled with the Holy Spirit and at his baptism a voice is heard that “This is my Son,” and a voice from a cloud which is the voice of God Himself: “This is my Son, honour him, receive him.”
And then it begins with “He is the anointed one.” And the Messiah is the Anointed One of God.
And what is he to do? He is “to bring glad tidings to the poor.”
A couple of days ago someone hearing this said, “What does it mean, ‘glad tidings to the poor’?” “Glad tidings” is gospel, good news. And “to the poor,” and why is it “glad tidings to the poor”? Because the poor are the people of God, the anawim, the faithful ones, and they are to receive the glad tidings, the good news.
And what is this? It means that God Himself will come and He will show them that it is in your poverty that you will understand, because the meaning of “poor” to the people of Israel at that time was “for those who know their need for God.” It wasn’t a matter of who had money or who didn’t have money. It wasn’t a matter of who was rich and who was poor.
There is an old story of a young man and his bride on their honeymoon looking out over the sea one night. And the young man says to his bride, in a bit of a sorrowful voice he says: “Someday, Mary, we’re going to be rich.” And then she looks at him and she says, “Joseph, we’re already rich. Someday we might get some money.”
This is very important to understand, because money and poverty have nothing to do with each other in the gospel reading. One is rich when one is filled with the joy and happiness of life. That’s what it was. When you say, “He drank rich, red wine,” it means that with high spirits and welcoming the occasion. To be rich is to be full of life and this is what Jesus brings us. He is going to bring us the fullness of life.
And that is what they mean when they say that he will bring recovery of sight to the blind. Because in our ways and means we go through life looking for what’s the meaning of it? What is the purpose of it? Where will I be fully satisfied? Will it be in money? Will it be in things? Will it be in good name? What will it be? In a great career?
And we say, of course, the Messiah says: “No, you will not find it. They might help it, but you will not find what you’re looking for.”
And what will you find? And when you find it, what does it mean?
And there in that day in Nazareth in the synagogue, Jesus says, “You will find me, for I am the richness of life. I am the Son of God.” God has been incarnate before you. He is not distant, up in the sky. He is here and now, and he will live with you and he will experience childhood, growing up, having friends, losing friends. He will experience the great joys and the great pains and the great sorrows of life. And he will do it because he has become one of us.
And the Messiah will not just do it and go away. The Messiah is here to stay. When we cry, he cries with us. When we laugh, he laughs with us. When we are elated at what we’ve accomplished, he too is full of joy. When we are disappointed in times of great sorrow and sadness, he is with us, to be with us, to show us that his love is with us and his love heals and his love will never leave, for God’s love is everlasting.
Today what he is saying is: if you have God’s love, and you give your love to God, He will show you the new way. And the new way, of course, is the way of the Messiah. It is the way of compassion and understanding. It is the way of creating new life out of darkness. It is a way of coming closer together, bringing people closer together, of human ancient problems and angers and fighting.
It’s the end of all that oldness in the world and an invitation.
And the invitation is: “Come with me, for I will be with you all days, even to the end of time.” It is the invitation of Jesus to the people of his hometown. “Don’t look at me as just a carpenter. Don’t look at me as just a well-known person in history. Don’t look at me as if I were going to pass through this town like everyone else: stays, lives, dies and passes through. I have come to stay. I have come to change you. I have come to give you the one thing that can make your world change.”
And that is not just the knowledge and understanding of God who loves you and creates you for these things.
It is that God comes to be with you as he changes the world for you, to live in your heart and always to be at your side. And not just in this life only, but walking with Jesus the Messiah all through life into eternity.
This is the gift that came at Christmas. But the Messiah is saying to his people, “Give me your life and I will give you mine.”
And next week you’ll find out what they did.
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This homily was delivered on 24th January 2010.
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