The Word Dwells Among Us
Third Sunday of the Year. Fr Brendan Slevin calls on us to heed the voice of the Lord as he becomes present to us in the scriptures.
News has spread about Jesus and his teaching throughout Galilee, he has travelled from synagogue to synagogue teaching but now he takes that bold step of returning to his home synagogue. Although it was his custom, we are told, to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath, I think it is implied that this is the first time he is to teach there.
He has also changed since the last time he was home. He has met with John the Baptist, been baptized in the Jordan and has been tempted during his forty days in the wilderness.
And so Luke builds up the drama of this moment, the scroll of Isaiah is unrolled in front of Jesus he finds the place, reads from it then all eyes are fixed on him. We can feel the tension, the expectation and then he speaks:
Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
This Sunday at Mass we will hear this passage from Luke’s Gospel. We will hear in our liturgy a reading from scripture which tells us of Jesus taking part in a liturgy and in that telling we will hear scripture and the fulfilment of that scripture.
We are drawn deeper and deeper into a mystery that cannot be bound by time. That moment when Jesus began to speak is made present not just in words or sounds but present as he himself is present in the reading.
It is sad, however, when at this great moment in our liturgy if we look round us we would likely see blank faces and bored stares and some eyes more likely to be on their owner’s watches than on the preacher. Why is it that we can be so detached from this moment, how can we possibly become tired or bored with the liturgy? Why should it be that the liturgy of the word is so often described as the most boring part of the Mass?
Perhaps it is because we have placed scripture firmly in the past. We read the Gospels as if they were merely biographies of Jesus and fail to recognize that they are also about the unfolding of faith in our own lives. We fail to, or are afraid to, accept that these words of scripture are being fulfilled now and in us.
We may also fail to accept that those sitting around us, those we usually ignore throughout Mass until we are forced to shake their hand at the sign of peace, they too are the fulfilment of God’s promise.
Notice that when Jesus says that the words of Isaiah have been fulfilled he adds ‘in your hearing’; by listening to Isaiah and to Jesus they, and we, participate in the reality of the moment, which is the fulfilment of the Father’s promise.
This passage from Luke’s Gospel perhaps more than other passages of scripture transcends time as we read or hear it. It becomes present to us and by doing so that moment of the fulfilment of God’s promise comes to life in us.
It is a sad fact that those of us who do believe in God have the suspicious eyes of the world upon us. The frustration of having our faith questioned and criticised by those who have made no attempt to understand it should not discourage us.
By our baptism we can stand up and say
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me.
But the awesome truth behind this it that it is we who are sent out as other Christs into the world. We are the ones who will be ridiculed for his name. We are the ones who will be threatened. But faith leads us to face up to the excitement that God is working in and through us.
Let us find that excitement as we wait to listen to Christ. Let us find time and stillness to hear him speak to us. Let us embrace our liturgies and our prayer with joy as we see in ourselves the fulfilment of God’s promise.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, he has anointed us.