This text is being fulfilled - Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > This text is being fulfilled - Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

As we celebrate Mass today in Hobart hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world are gathering in Panama City for the World Youth Day. It is now early Saturday evening in Panama City and the pilgrims are preparing for the Vigil ceremony with Pope Francis. There are some 1,000 Australian pilgrims, and we have 20 from Tasmania.

The theme of this WYD is “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38) These words are the response of the Virgin Mary to the Angel Gabriel.

In solidarity with Catholic youth from around the world let us reflect on the Gospel offered to us today at this Mass.

Jesus grew up in the small rural village of Nazareth. After his family returned from exile in Egypt, he lived there until he was around 30 years of age. He would have been well known among the people there. He had recently left to go to the Jordan region near Jerusalem and there encountered the ministry of his cousin, John. He allowed himself to be baptised by John and then withdrew to the desert regions beyond the Jordan. Then he returned to Galilee and chose to live in Capernaum, a small fishing village by the lake.

St Luke describes this in these words, “Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in time, returned to Galilee and his reputation spread throughout the countryside”. St Luke tells us that the reason for Jesus of Nazareth being talked about was that he taught in their synagogues. Simply, he attended the Saturday synagogue service and preached to the people. There were a number of extraordinary miracles that he wrought.

No doubt people from his own village had come to hear about him as well. He then chose to return home, to Nazareth, and attended the synagogue service. St Luke comments, “as he usually did”, no doubt referring to his practice as a faithful Jew of attending the weekly Sabbath services during his years at Nazareth.

On this occasion he was invited to speak. No doubt his reputation preceded him and the people were keen to see what the fuss was all about.

He was handed the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah. We are told by St Luke that he searched for a particular passage, from the sixty first chapter of Isaiah and then proceeded to read it out.

The text chosen by the Lord was one of the important prophesies concerning the Jewish expectation of a Messiah being sent by God. The text could easily be interpreted as proposing that the Messiah would accomplish some form of political liberation. The people were suffering under the harsh rule of the Romans. However, it was a text that expressed in clear terms what Jesus’ own ministry was to be.

St Luke describes that Jesus sat down – the usual position for teaching in his day. The people turned towards him in expectation and then he said simply, and one would imagine with calm authority, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen”.

Why did the Lord choose this particular text?

The first words he read out were significant: “the spirit of the Lord has been given to me”. Jesus had recently experienced the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon him as he came up out of the waters of the Jordan after his baptism.

The text speaks of being anointed. Jesus knew that he was anointed for a very particular mission. He knew his time had come. He knew he had a mission to perform. The words from the Prophet Isaiah that follow describe elements of that mission.

His mission was to be among the poor, the ordinary folk. His preaching and teaching gave them new hope and purpose. His miracles of healing will assure them that God was with them and has come to help and save them.

The captives that he has come to set free are those held captive by the powers of darkness. He drove out many evil spirits. The captives, also, were those bound by sickness and despair. They would know new freedom.

The blind were those who were physically blind, and he healed many of them. But would also enlighten hearts and minds with the truth that he taught and enable people to see God’s plan and purpose for them.

The downtrodden were those who struggled with life. He would lift them up with new hope.

All of this would be an eloquent proclamation of the Lord’s year of favour, a time of Jubilee, a time of blessing. They would benefit from having Jesus among them, as a manifestation of God’s presence. They would be able to taste in an immediate and tangible manner the compassion and mercy of God. The time had come God was going to reveal his saving design for humanity. No longer would the people struggle alone.

The choice of this text reveals Jesus’ own consciousness of his purpose and mission. What Isaiah described would indeed come to pass. The next three years of his public ministry will demonstrate this over and over again.

This text is an important revelation of the heart of God. God is a God who saves. God has intervened in human history. This is the God in whom we believe. What Jesus says of his mission reminds us that this is what he continues to do.

Coming into a personal relationship with Jesus through our faith; knowing him present in our lives; allows all that Isaiah spoke of to be realised in our own lives. To the young people here at Mass today I say, open your heart and your life to Jesus and you will able to say, “this text is being fulfilled even as you listen”.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 27 January 2019