Readings: Neh 8:2-4,5-6,8-10; 1 Cor. 12:12-30; Lk. 11-4; 4:14-21
Fulfillment, good news to the poor and liberation to captives, are the key words that capture the central theme of this Sunday readings. Both the Gospel and the first reading of this Sunday proclaim a message of liberation to the poor. In the first reading the Israelites have just returned from their long exile in Babylon, where they have been greatly humiliated, and so their spirits are down. They need a word of encouragement to help renew them spiritually, and offer them a strong motivation and renewal. Ezra the priest understands their situation, and uses the regular worship as a moment for spiritual re-commitment as he reads from the Book of the Law of God. We are told that “all the people listened attentively”. The message seems to touch the audience deeply, and the people are ready to recommit themselves to their God, and to embark on a spiritual, moral and physical renewal of Jerusalem. Here we find a good pastoral example in the way the priest Ezra applies the Word of God in a concrete situation with great success in the spiritual renewal of the people. The responsorial psalm affirms this power of God’s Word. “Your words, Lord, are spirit and they are life”.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus like Ezra reads a Scripture passage in the Synagogue. The passage given to Jesus from Isaiah is a concrete fulfillment in his own person and ministry. He declares that “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.” The passage is a summary of Jesus’ pastoral ministry that is already accomplished. Jesus is sent “to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free and to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor”. In blending this text from Isaiah with the words of Jesus at the end, Luke highlights the fact that indeed Jesus is the Messiah foretold by the prophets. The message we take home this Sunday may be summed up in four points. 1) Jesus like Ezra the priest helps us to apply the word of God in the concrete situation of today in that the good news to the poor and liberation to those imprisoned is fulfilled. 2) We are invited to listen to the word of God in a fresh new way; to reflect on what it means in our life, families, and parish community. 3) We take home the Good News proclaimed today in response to those who yearn to hear words of comfort; those who are held captive in the modern and postmodern worldly cares; those who yearn for healing in their blindness caused by the darkness of this world; we take the Good news to set free those imprisoned by addictions to substance abuse and pornography; and to set free those downtrodden by oppressive social systems. 4) May Christ’s prophecy therefore be fulfilled in the life of the Church today in Christian communities and parishes, as the poor experience the good news, the captives set free, and the blind of all categories enabled to see again.
©2019 John S. Mbinda