4 September
Lk 4:16-30

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, Jesus went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" He said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Doctor, cure yourself!' And you will say, 'Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'" And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown.   But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

The listeners’ minds were set afar off; they didn't expect anything to happen here and now.  Cyril of Alexandria (375 – 444) wrote: “The Israelites used to say that the prophecies concerning the Christ were fulfilled either in the persons of some of their more glorious kings or in the holy prophets.”  But they were unable to realise that what they were hearing was written about the man standing before them.  About him they were only “wondering perhaps how he could read without having been taught,” wrote Cyril.  

We think little of the present moment or the present place; and that rubs off on anyone who happens to be present.  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Yet all great religious teachers keep emphasising the here and now.  If nothing is happening here and now, nothing is happening, simply. 

Imagine everyone who has ever sat in church listening to a preacher.  They are encouraged by the readings to think about the past, and by the preacher to think about the future.  A curate in my childhood used to preach all the time about the next life.  The actual life of the village seldom got a mention.  What happens to the present?  It is somehow forgotten.  The past cannot face the present, so it moves into the future. 

It would be an interesting theme to follow up.  Is the 'present' the same for everyone?  Not really, I think.  Imagine it this way.  Someone in the village has climbed to the top of a tree and he sees a horse coming; while I, sitting at the foot of the tree, can't see it.  The horse is still the future for me, but for the person at the top of the tree it is the present.  The 'present' depends on where you are.  Applying the image, we could say it depends on the level of your consciousness.  For people with a low level of consciousness the present is almost non-existent; for Jesus it is an immensity.  For his listeners the kingdom of God was about some distant future; for Jesus it was already being inaugurated: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  

 

 
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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 

 

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