Homily September 4th, 2023

Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time – Lk 4:16-30

            Today’s Gospel presents us with an interesting and well-known passage: upon returning to His home, Jesus attends the synagogue. His relatives and countrymen are excited, yet Jesus knows what really lies within their hearts. We can consider three little parts of the Gospel, and then reflect on how well we live out this love of God. We can consider, first, the passage Jesus cites, second, the reaction of His listeners, and, third, His words about the fulfillment.

            The first thing that calls our attention, and which occupies a large portion of the Gospel, is the passage Jesus reads from Isaiah. He’s citing Isaiah 61:1-2, but it’s interesting to note where He stops: He ends part way through verse 2. The verse in its entirety reads “to announce a year of favor from the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God.” The vengeance meant here is probably violence and retribution against Israel’s enemies, the Gentiles who live around them and even oppress them.[1] Jesus omits that part; as He begins His public ministry, Christ very subtly announces that salvation is for everyone, that God’s love isn’t bound just to the chosen people of Israel. Indeed, God’s love extends even to those who are considered the enemies of His people. No one is excluded.

            Since it is so subtle, His listeners are pleased at what they hear; they are “amazed at His gracious words,” meaning, words of God’s favor, blessing, and love.[2] However, it quickly becomes apparent that they really don’t understand what Jesus is getting at, since a few verses later, when Jesus reminds them of how God favored the Gentiles in the Old Testament, and how the prophets were rejected among the Israelites, they are filled with fury, drive Him out of the synagogue, and want to throw Him down the hill.

            Thirdly, after reading the hope-filled passage from Isaiah, Christ says “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In our lives, too, Christ speaks to us, and fulfills His saving work, “today.” It’s not simply a thing of the past, or something to be hoped for. Today Christ is working to save us, and today He speaks to us. If He speaks, then we also need to answer Him “today,” as psalm 95 reminds us: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”

            If we really want to live out our faith, and reflect this love of God in our lives, we must truly love others and keep the commandments. Elsewhere we read that “Whoever loves God must also love his brother,” and “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.” This is what those who heard Christ in the synagogue found unbelievable: that God would love everyone so much, Jew and Gentile alike, to send His Son to die for them. We can ask ourselves: are we really convinced that this is how much God loves us? Do we love Him in return? And, if we say we love God, do we really reflect it our interactions with others?

            Let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, for the grace to grow in our love for God and for our neighbor, showing it especially by keeping the commandments and loving those around us.

[1] Based on context, but also see Strong’s Hebrew Concordance, 5359. Naqam.

[2] Strong’s Concordance: 5485. charis



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