Ordinary Time 04, Year C-2010

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Your word, Lord, stands forever; it is firm as the heavens (Ps. 119:89)

After reading from the book of the Prophet Isaiah, Jesus was ready to comment on the read text. Accordingly, “the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.” And he simply said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

In this brief commentary—perhaps the briefest ever on Is. 61:1-2, albeit that the citation appears to be a Lucan artistic text, so woven from Is. 61:1-2 and 58:6 as to prevent one from reading the Isaian passage too spiritually or narrowly (see the commentary on the Gospel of Luke in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary 43:59)—Jesus, without doubt, was announcing that being ushered in right there and then was the time of fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy (see footnote on Lk. 4:21 in the New American Bible). But such an announcement on Jesus’ part was likewise a claim that placed “both listeners and readers in the position of having to make a choice” (see the InterVarsity Press commentary at [1]).

In other words, it was as though Jesus was setting himself before his fellow Nazareth citizens as a blessing and a curse: a blessing for those who would receive him and a curse for those who would reject him (see Dt. 11:26; 28:2, 45; 30:1, 15, 19). Destined, as prophesied by Simeon, for the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be sign that would be contradicted” (Lk. 2:34), Jesus did not leave room for fence-sitting.

The initial reaction of those who saw and heard Jesus was favorable; “all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” But apparently they did not find easy reconciling, on the one hand, what made them praise him and brought them amazement with, on the other hand, what they knew about his family tree. Nor did they appreciate one from among them lecture them about salvation history. They bristled both at Jesus’ suggestion that their rejection of him was consistent with their ancestors’ rejection of prophets raised up by God for them from among their own kinsmen and at his citing instances when foreigners, rather than God’s own chosen people, received God’s blessing. So, Jesus’ hearers ended up running him out of town and seeking his death. “But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.”

“Whatever was written previously,” according to Rom. 15:4, “was written for our instruction” (see also 1 Cor. 10:11). It is not far-fetched, the notion that those who today consider themselves God’s chosen people can be as equally guilty of unbelief as were those in the past who also counted themselves among God’s chosen ones (see Heb. 3). I too can in so many ways try to turn my back on Jesus and do away with him.

But Jesus manages to slip away, fulfilling the prophecy, “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you.” Like a city fortified against the whole land, against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people, Jesus prevails and outlasts those who would do him the greatest harm. For love lasts and never fails

It lasts and never fails, especially the greater love of the one who laid down his life for his friends and even for those who were hostile to him (Jn. 15:13; Rom. 5:8). For precisely in death did Jesus triumph, revealing himself as truly the one he claimed to be and drawing everyone to himself, exemplifying on the cross every virtue, that is, all genuine power, giving life to those who eat his body given up for all and drink his blood shed for the forgiveness of sins (Jn. 8:28; 12:32; see also the non-biblical reading in the Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, for the memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas on January 28).

I may, of course, not recognize Jesus or see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, as in a sacrament. But in the end I will see face to face and he will be revealed as the Son of Man, the King, to whom assistance was—no two ways about it—either given or refused. And I will be fully known, too, either as loving effectively or loving only affectively, either loving or not loving God with all my hearts and all people as he loves them (see the today’s collect prayer), either as blessed or cursed.