Sunday 23rd of January, THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR C
Luke 1,1-4; 4,14-21
Let us walk again in the footsteps of the Gospel, on this Sunday of the Word in the week of prayer for Christian unity. Today’s Gospel helps us to understand even more the power of the word, its meaning, its purpose, and how Jesus is the example par excellence of the incarnate word, which leads us to the liberation from our slavery. This Sunday’s passage is made up of two distinct pieces from the Gospel of Luke. The first half represents the very first verses of the book of the evangelist; the second half, in chapter 4 of the book, the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee, after the temptations in the desert. In the first part, Luke presents himself as the only one, among the four evangelists, who is not an eyewitness: he is one of us, like us he has been reached by a word, by a story, and he tries to pass on this word, reworking the story as each of us should do. In the second part we hear the word promised by Isaiah, pronounced by Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth: the year of the Lord’s grace is fulfilled, liberation from slavery and sight to the blind.
Each of us is on the way, and Luke expresses the story of Jesus on the way. A journey that leads from Bethlehem, and from Galilee, to Jerusalem. Luke’s style is to tell facts, putting them in order, as he tells us from the very first words. According to the tradition, Luke is a doctor, the whole first part of his Gospel is a sort of “logotherapy”, of healing through the word. The role of the word, of the story is central. Luke is a wonderful travel companion!
The prologue talks about the subject of the gospel, the tradition received, the attempt to put everything in order. At the center there are the events (“pragmata”), there are others which have already written, there are the texts, there is above all an “us” that expresses the community, from which this “me, too” of Luke emerges. He puts his hand to the story, and this “you” who is the recipient of the writing, the illustrious Theophilus. Individual people, me and you, are the image of the whole community, already educated on the stories of Jesus. It is therefore not a matter of a solo work, but of a choral action, in the story and in the tradition.
The gospel is not a philosophy, an ideology, a morality, a law, an illumination. It’s made up of facts, events. They are not ideas, but historical facts. The Christian faith must always be anchored in history, because men live on the memories of him. Culture, food, history help us to build the path of each day, the future, the memories. There are events that tell us something new in the history of humankind. It is not the eternal return of identity, a dog chasing its own tail, where there is a tale of death, as often happens in our narratives that slip into the fatal ending we had already foreseen. But these facts tell us the end of this fatalistic and tragic story, with the resurrection we have a new light. It is us who can choose, with love, to overcome this death. This is the good news of the gospel.
The facts narrated by Luke bring about the fulfillment of the waiting, and he uses words. These words help to get out of this eternal return, through truly accomplished facts, in which the men’s deep desires for justice, love and solidarity have been fulfilled. What was promised by God, desired by men, has come true, and Luke undertakes to tell it.
If we stop only at ideology, without understanding the facts, without a story, we risk living like the two disciples of Emmaus, who will close the whole story: we can have clear all the philosophy behind it, be very well prepared, but along the way, in the road of every day we understand nothing, and we are disappointed. If we already have our ideas well constructed, and we do not allow ourselves to be questioned along the way, we risk living only in the remorse: “Weren’t our hearts burning?” We need a story, and let it be ordered!
Eyewitnesses became ministers of the word, literally “rowers”. They are not gurus. The guru is the one who has the truth, and everyone must believe that truth. Our world is now full of gurus, but few of word rowers. The “many” Luke speaks about, on the other hand, are servants, slaves condemned to row the war boats, being all of us in the same boat in the direction of the truth. No one is a teacher, but each one, with his own head, has the duty to judge whether that word handed down is true or false. Peter is not a “master of your faith”, but a servant. The boat is the word, which accompanies us in the sea and leads us to the promised land. A beautiful image, borrowed from creation, the sea, the earth, and this boat that plows the waves.
Luke has been following everything closely, from the beginning, with care and order. How much do we learn from Luke’s method? Do we follow the events we experience every day closely, or do we take a brief, distracted glance? Do we follow them from the beginning, or do we stop at partial stories? Do we do it with care, or with carelessness?
With a leap, today’s Gospel passes to chapter 4 and presents the inaugural speech of Jesus. The scene is set on Saturday, the action of Jesus is described by this inaugural sermon in which he introduces himself to his followers. There has already been baptism, in silence and in prayer, there have been temptations, responding to Satan, and now Jesus speaks to those about his daily life. Jesus returns from the Jordan and the desert, in fullness of the Spirit received in baptism, the spirit that does not yield to the lure of evil. His main activity is teaching. Luke, as mentioned, is a doctor, he tells us of the action of Christ who heals everyone first of all through his words. Men live according to the words he has in his heart, this regulates relations with others, with creation. He goes to teach in Nazareth, in Galilee, in his daily life, in the synagogue. The place of daily life is where the gospel is realized, even if at times we expect different places, distant places.
Saturday is the day of celebration, the completion of creation, the rest. Jesus gets up to read, Jesus sits down at the end. In between, there is the action of him with the sacred text. First of all he gets up to read, in Greek αναγνωρίσει “I recognize”, to read is to recognize the reality behind the words. The verb to get up, “to rise”, is the same used for the resurrection. Risen Jesus makes us recognize the Scripture. He opened the scroll and read, two actions that are by no means trivial. Not all of us “know how to read”, nor do we have the dignity to open the book, the truth remains sealed. Sometimes no one is able to open this seven-sealed truth, as described in Revelation, and everyone cries because no one can read it! Only the lamb is able to read it, only Jesus has this authority. Here, in the humble synagogue on the outskirts, Jesus shows himself in this unique role of him.
With the words of Isaiah, Jesus interprets his entire mission. Isaiah 61 speaks of the Messiah, of the fullness of the spirit. The Spirit of brotherhood, received in the queue in the Jordan River, shows that he is the Lord’s anointed, because Jesus manages to be the brother of all humanity. He is close to the poor, the Greek term indicates the poor without a face, the “pitocos”, necessary for everything. We are all necessary “beggars” of everything, of life, of love, of self-esteem, of joy. The good news is told to each of us, that’s why Jesus was anointed.
The first good news is the freedom of slaves: we know many slavery, internal, the hardest, and the external ones of others that oppress us. And we know a concept of freedom, which is different from the one promised in the Isaiah scroll: not so much doing what we like or what suits us, but liberation from slavery. Even the text does not even use the word “freedom”, but “send away”, the slave is sent away from the condition of slavery.
The second good news is the sight of the blind. Sometimes our greatest sin is “saying we see”, as happens to the Pharisees, rather than being blind, which in the end at least would be easy to heal! The gospel opens our eyes, avoids us from biased and delusional readings of reality. This is the condition for inhabiting the earth, for seeing and living a true relationship with others and with all creation.
The third piece of news is the readmission of the oppressed to freedom. The year of grace, the year of jubilee, is taken from Leviticus 25, in which the conditions to live the promised land, that is our planet now, are codified! Our land is livable when we realize that all is a free gift from God. We are not free, we are blind, when we are convinced that we are not all “poor”, and to some men we consider “less poor” we ask , at a great price, what God gives us for free! If we live the gifts as rivals, we destroy the brother and devour the planet, far beyond our needs arising from our being poor. In Leviticus he gives the practical conditions, every seven weeks in this holy year: redistribute wealth so that too much poverty does not make society more vulnerable, prevent the “too poor” from generating wars and being the weak link of the community, more easily corruptible by the foreigner.
Jesus comes to proclaim that this year of grace has arrived. The first Christians, let us not forget, in fact shared their goods, for example. The condition to live as “men”, as sons and brothers, without despising anyone. How beautiful it would be if, for our planet, we lived the awareness of this year of grace!
Jesus sits down. All eyes are fixed on him. There is silence. And Jesus speaks about hearing: “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing“. ‘Today’, a word that often recurs in the Gospel of Luke, until the last “today” said by Jesus on the cross to the malefactor crucified beside him. This is the first “today”, which takes us out of the desert and makes us enter a garden. It all depends on our present, now it is the right time. We don’t have to wait any longer to act!
By whom is this Word fulfilled? It takes place in our ears, if we want it. We just have to understand it and act accordingly. Theophilus, literally, is someone who loves God. The gospel is addressed to those who seek God, to tell him that he will discover that he is “loved by God”. You, in first person, must realize whether or not the solidity of this word is true. Each of us is not required to believe, to have blind faith, this is not the purpose of the word. We would make the mistake of the gurus. The word is self-communication, and it accompanies us to understand if its foundations are solid. We must do this today, with every word, from newspapers to social networks, to check whether they are true or false, if they do not give life, if they do not respond to the men’s deep desire to be like God, following the example of the life of Christ, according to the example of the life of Christ told in the gospel. The word carries out concrete actions, towards a more just world, as St. Clare of Assisi urges us, who says: “And loving one another in the love of Christ, that love you have in your heart, show it outside with your works, so that the sisters, provoked by this example, may always grow in the love of God and in mutual charity “(FF 2847). We sincerely wish you a happy Sunday of the Word!