Introduction: Jesus, after receiving the Holy Spirit at his baptism in the Jordan and filled and led to the desert by the same Spirit to be tempted, Luke continues to stress the importance of the presence of the Holy Spirit who will accompany Jesus throughout his life and ministry. In Luke 4:16-24, we found Jesus returning, after his baptism, to his own place of birth in Nazareth, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to start his ministry. He will find there a great deal of acceptance but also some opposition about his Mission as Messiah and Teacher.
1. Read: read the text of Luke 4:16-24 slowly and listen attentively with the ‘ear of your heart’. What word, sentence or phrase stands out for you?
2. Reflect: read the text again and pay attention of what touches you; why is it meaningful for you. What thought or reflection comes to you.
3. Respond: read the text again but this time respond spontaneously to the word of God. In other words, make a dialogue with God what comes from within you. What gift does this text lead you to ask for from the Lord? [spend 2 min of silence]
4. Stay with the Word: read the text a final time and rest in the word. Allow God to speak to you in deep silence. Do not say anything just listen to God’s words. What is He saying?
5. Take now the word, sentence, or phase, into your daily life/activity; allow it to become part of you. Always listen to it, reflect on it, pray over it and rest on it as time allows during the day. Then allow the Word leads you to action.
Conclude your ‘Lectio Divina’ with the ‘Our Father’…
Reflection: Our text of Luke 4:16-24, describes the first visit of Jesus to his place of birth, Nazareth, immediately after his baptism. For Luke this is the formal beginning of his ministry. Jesus starts his ministry with his inaugural sermon reading the passage of the prophet Isiah 61:1-2; 58:5-7 form the scroll handed to him in the Synagogue. He won the admiration of many in the synagogue astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. But at the same time, he also experienced rejection as he makes his first speech in a synagogue. Practically Jesus launches here his mission and his programme as Messiah and prophet.
Central Message: “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has anointed me.” as you listen”. “I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country”.
“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has anointed me”. The beginning of Jesus’ mission is marked by the very presence of the Trinity: it is the Lord (the Father), giving his Spirit (the Holy Spirit) to Jesus (the Son) to start carrying out the plan of salvation. Jesus announces his hearers that he has been anointed by the Holy Spirit (at his baptism), and confirmed through the text of Isiah 61:1-2 as he read it, “the Spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has anointed me”, that is, to carry out the messianic mission starting as he read this text. Jesus announces in his short speech his mission and his program of action and describes the kind of Messiah he will be. His Messianic mission derives obviously from the Love of God the Father to his Son Jesus in the Holy Spirit. It is a mission of Love, compassion, tenderness, care, mercy and grace that Jesus will reveal to the outcast, the rejected, the marginalised and the excluded from human warmth and fellowship. He will cure the sick and give sight to the blind, physically and spiritually and bring justice to the oppressed freeing them from their oppressors and announce a year of the Lord’s favour, forgiving and cancelling any kind of debt. This good news fell like the dew in an early morning, at the right time and in the right place, by the right person, the Saviour. Those were the kid of situations that Jesus found when he revealed himself as Messiah. Two thousand years have passed, and the same situations persist up to now. But he left to the Church, you, me and all the baptised to carry on his work with the presence and assistance of the Holy Spirit. The question is are we doing it?
- “This text is being fulfilled today as you listen”. Jesus addressed the Synagogue of his own village with those words, and “he won approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.” (Lk 4:22) These words and the signs he worked just before coming to his native land, were for sure, the evidence that he was the Messiah and filled with the Holy Spirit. In St John Gospel Jesus declared it in this way: “the words I say to you I do not speak as from myself: it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work” (Jn 14:10). So, there was no doubt, for most who were present in the synagogue, that he was a special Jew, different form the leaders of his time. The word “today” that Jesus proclaimed, gives a strong sense of fulfilment as if there were no other day. It indicates that the long awaited coming of salvation has finally arrived in his very person. The effects of his speech caused two different reactions in the synagogue, one of admiration and acceptance and the other of envy and rejection. As for the first reaction, they were free from prejudices, it did not matter whether he was from the local village or an outsider. What mattered for them was that finally the awaited time had arrived, that their hope for the coming of the Messiah had been finally fulfilled as they listen to his words. There was such a joy and astonishment that they were all overwhelmed “by his gracious words coming from his lips”. As for the second reaction, having heard about his reputation for what he said and the sings he worked in the neighbouring town, they did not believe him as they heard him in person. Their prejudices blind them making wrong judgements about him as they presumed to know his family and his origin. “this is Joseph’s son, surely?” Similar wards are found in another passage: “he is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth. From Nazareth! Can anything good come from that place? (Cfr. Jn 1:45-47). Their eyes were fixed on him with envy and enrage as he spoke with authority. It was believed that the expected Messiah would have come from Bethlehem and from the stoke of David, but not from such an insignificant and poor village. Besides, they were scandalized that Jesus accept the poor, the sick, the marginalised and the oppressed this cause the rejection of Jesus. That is how God works, through what seems to be insignificant and poor. God works in mysterious ways!
- “I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country”. In this statementJesus sees himself as a prophet, and he foresees and announces what his fate will be from this day on. At the same time, he seemed to accept the fact of not being accepted by his own countryman. This would imply that he will not perform any sing or miracle there because they will not believe him, but they will reject him and even attempt to kill him. They would not accept his popularity, his powers and his leadership, because they acquainted with his background and his origin. They found difficult to believe that he was the Messiah, the anointed One. Another reason for his rejection was because he accepted all kinds of people living in deplorable circumstances of poverty, sickness, oppression, captivity, blindness etc. Jesus perceived the attitudes of his hearers and knew exactly what their expectations and their thinking were form the way they reacted. So, being aware of it, he foresaw with prophetic vision, their next demand, and before they expressed it, he went ahead saying: “No doubt you will quote me the saying ‘Physician, heal yourself’”, and “we have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside”. As for the first saying Jesus already reveals what is to come to his life, Matthew puts it in this way: “He saved others … he cannot save himself” (Matt 27:42). The second saying “do the same in your own countryside”, he perceives that they will demand a privileged treatment and bring them the same benefits as the other places he visited. So, he wisely decided not to please them but to go to other places where his Word and his deeds will be welcomed.
Some questions for our reflexion:
- Jesus taught us to accept the excluded and marginalised, do you accept everybody, or do you exclude some?
- Jesus shares his mission with us, who or what gives us strength to carry out the mission entrusted to us by Jesus?
- How is the mission of Jesus related to the mission of the Church today? How are you participating in this mission?