01Sep 1st September. Monday, Week 22

First Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

(Paul felt weak in Corinth but still preached with the convincing power of the Spirit.)

When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Gospel: Luke 4:16-30

(Jesus’ sermon in  Nazareth, promising healing and enlightenment: a prophetic vision)

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he 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 procaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” 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.

A Spirit guided life

Today brings the first of a series of readings from Luke, about Jesus’ ministry. They follow his journeys for all  the remaining weekdays up to the start of Advent. Already from his home-town pulpit in Nazareth Jesus  announces, “These Scripture promises are fulfilled here and now, in your presence!” He will point out elsewhere that the kingdom of God is not bound to a particular a future point of time or place, it “is not here” or “there.” For the  truth is that the reign of God is already in your midst (Lk 17:21). The inaugural sermon at Nazareth has some major themes that will be unpacked later in Luke’s gospel: Jesus’ concern for the poor; the shock he provokes in conservative hearts; his outreach to Gentiles; the role of the Spirit; Jesus as prophet, rejected outside the city.

“Today this text is fulfilled in your hearing.” The promise of future resurrection is already dawning. The jubilee year of favour announced in Isaiah 61, bringing in a new Jerusalem and a new earth (Isa 65: 17-25), has already begun with Jesus. His followers can taste some of the wonder and joy of the jubilee. Such happiness cannot be won in selfish isolation, for it will be lost if it is not shared. We must be willing to offer the same compassion as he did, to widows and foreigners, outcasts and lepers. Jesus cannot rest content unless the glad tidings are shared with all the poor and neglected of the world.

Because Christ provides us with spiritual power, people like Paul will not be discouraged, even if for a time they go through episodes of “weakness and fear.” His words to the Corinthians show the intense level of argument and debate within the early Church. As the foundation of his pastoral activity Paul felt a deep sense of vocation to do God’s work as an apostle, and he sensed the presence of the Spirit guiding h im. Therefore he kept going in spite of opposition, always open to new inspiration, and even coping with changes of his mood. After doing his best, Paul could then confidently leave the results with “the power of God.”


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