Nazareth: prophet’s fate

JesusIconNazarethPast as Prologue. 25 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. 26 It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 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.”

The people of Nazareth had heard Jesus’ declaration of the fulfillment of God’s promises as a guarantee of God’s blessing on them, but Jesus affirmed a fulfillment that was not limited to Israel only—God would bless all the poor, all the captives. Neither was the fulfillment Jesus announced radically different from the work of the prophets. Israel’s Scriptures themselves bear witness to God’s blessing on Gentiles as well as Jews. Reminders of the mighty works of Elijah and Elisha follow naturally after the proverb about the prophet and the prophet’s home. Continue reading

Nazareth: hometown prophets

JesusIconNazarethJesus in his native place. There are another group of scholars who connect the people’s question in v.22 with Jesus’ words in v.23 and following. The presumption (and not a bad one) is that Jesus is aware of their expectations: “If Jesus has done these great things in other places, surely he will do even greater things here! He is a home boy and charity and good works begin at home, right?”

In the culture of Jesus’ native place, home and family carry obligations, especially that of giving preference to one’s own family and community. Jesus’ words gives voice to their expectations: 23 He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” Continue reading

Nazareth: Joseph’s son?

JesusIconNazarethToday. 20 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. 21 He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” With the reading complete, Jesus takes the posture (sitting) of the teacher – as he was expected to do. All eyes are upon him, his reputation preceding, his choice of scripture provocative – the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. Then simply and powerfully Jesus tells them that this great promise of God given in Isaiah, this promise of the long-awaited Messiah has been fulfilled. Continue reading

Nazareth: the people

JesusIconNazarethContext. One thing that is evident when you look at this Gospel reading (Luke 4:21-30) is that the narrative really begins at v.14. As mentioned last week, it is as though the story was cut in half (last week vv.14-21) and we never got to know the reaction of the people in the synagogue. Fortunately, the story continues as Luke 4:21-30 is the Gospel reading for this Sunday (4th Ordinary, C). Many Lucan scholars hold that the two halves together are key and make clear the four major points in Luke’s account:

  • the announcement of Jesus ministry as the fulfillment of God’s salvation-time,
  • a statement about the content of Jesus’ ministry based on the quotation from Isaiah,
  • the foreshadowing of Jesus’ final suffering and rejection,
  • the foreshadowing of the movement of the gospel from Jew to Gentile. (found in Stoffregen)

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The Porch Light

It is not all that unusual that people will tell me that they find themselves waking up on Sunday morning somewhat less-than-excited about coming to Mass. “Father, it is so the-same-thing week after week, I find my mind wanders, I don’t get much out it, too many times I receive Communion and just keep walking out the door” I will almost always ask them, “When are thinking about coming to church, who do you look forward to seeing” – and I ask that God, Jesus or the priest not be their answer. Almost always the reply is “no one” or “I really don’t know anyone at the parish – I just park, come in, receive Eucharist, and go home.” Continue reading

First words, next words

I like trivia games. Nothing too esoteric or arcane, but still a bit challenging. A friend of mine knows music. Not my specialty. Because of life on a submarine, time in Kenya, and formation time as a friar and priest, I have large gaps in my musical knowledge and exposure. I do alright in history, swimming, and (likely no surprise here) the Bible. Continue reading

Nazareth: today

JesusIconNazarethThe Poor, Captive, Blind and Oppressed. It is important to note that this mission is specifically directed at the needs of people: poor, captive, blind, oppressed. Significantly, Jesus’ work will be good news to the poor. Mary’s prayer (1:52-52; the Magnificat) praises the Lord for lifting up the lowly and sending the rich away empty. Later, Jesus announces God’s blessing on the poor (6:20) and then refers to the fulfillment of the charge to bring good news to the poor in his response to John (7:22). The poor also figure more prominently in Jesus’ teachings in Luke than in any other Gospel (14:13, 21; 16:20, 22; 18:22; 21:3). Continue reading

Nazareth: first words

JesusIconNazarethHow appropriate that the first record of public ministry is the very living Word made flesh sharing the Word of God. Luke records these first spoken words of Jesus’ ministry:

18 “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, 19 and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Continue reading

Nazareth: spirit

JesusIconNazarethAs noted, this passage begins with a reference to Jesus being “in the power of the Spirit.” While there are no doubt some implicit Trinitarian ideas here, the OT should serve as the means of understanding the direction of Luke’s narrative. The OT metaphors of wind (Heb: ruach – breath, wind, spirit), smoke, and cloud, as well as fire, were ways of talking about the active presence of God in the world. Even though the single Hebrew term is translated in various ways even when used of God, this idea became a way to talk about God in terms of his immediate activity in the world. The idea behind the Hebrew term ruach expressed the immanence of God in the world and encompassed his willingness and power to act in human history. This idea carried over into most of the NT since the equivalent term in Greek (pneuma) carries the same varied meaning. As well, this “power of the Spirit” also points to a commissioning of prophets and enabling of leaders to carry out their mission. Continue reading

Nazareth: synagogue

JesusIconNazarethHe came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read 17 and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written…” (Luke 4:16-17)

The Gospel of Mark has a similar account but records it later in Jesus’ public ministry near the end of the ministry in Galilee (Mark 6:1-6a). Luke reports the account at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In doing so, Luke highlights the initial admiration (Luke 4:22) and subsequent rejection of Jesus (Luke 4:28-29) and presents it as a foreshadowing of the whole future ministry of Jesus. Moreover, the rejection of Jesus in his own hometown hints at the greater rejection of him by Israel (Acts 13:46). Luke’s account seems to have at least two emphases: (a) the announcement of Jesus’ ministry as the fulfillment of God’s promises from the OT in general, but in Isaiah in particular; and (b) a statement about the context of Jesus’ ministry (cf. Luke 4:18-19). In each case, the prophet Isaiah serves as the fulfillment text.

Brief as it is, Luke’s introduction to the ministry in Galilee gives the reader an indication of the nature of Jesus’ work (teaching), one of its common settings (the synagogues), the source of its power (the Spirit), its result (praise), and its extent (to all). Continue reading