(Ordinary Time – Cycle C)
1 Corinthians 12,12-31
Luke 1,1-4; 4,14-21
Today we begin the annual liturgical reading of Luke’s gospel. The figure of Jesus that is presented reading publicly a scriptural text in the synagogue of Nazareth is like an icon of that which each liturgical cycle ought to be: a time of attentive and obligatory listening of the word of the gospel announced by Christ, in whom is realized the “today” of a permanent year of grace (gospel). A fundamental compromise of every Christian ought to be that of reading, studying and meditating the integral text of the gospel that is read each year and that is proposed through pieces only in the Sunday liturgy. The history of Jesus, foundation and model of our Christian conduct is known through the reading and deepening of the gospel text. The Church, body of Christ (second reading) is the privileged space for the proclamation and hearing of the gospel, above all through the liturgy of the Word, that reaches its full realization when it comes to produce the joy of faith and conversion of heart (first reading).
The first reading (Neh 8,2-4a.5-6.8-10) is taken from the book of Nehemiah that together with Esdras makes up the book of the socio-political and religious reconstruction of Israel after the Babylonian exile. The text that is proclaimed today is a beautiful example of an authentic liturgy of the Word, according to the practice of the synagogue in ancient Israel. After praise with which the celebration would open (Neh 8,6), the scribe proclaims the word of God taken from the book of Deuteronomy (Neh 8,5.8). The homily is pronounced in the second place, to which ought to correspond joy which overflows from faith and change in conduct of life.
The second reading (1 Cor 12,12-31) develops the celebrated Pauline symbolism of the Body of Christ, through which the Apostle exposes his ecclesiology founded in unity and diversity. The Christian community, that has its origin in baptism and in the Spirit, is a living organism in which each member is profoundly united with the totality of the body: “there are many parts, but one body” (v. 20). From this ecclesial principle two important consequences are derived. 1. – In the ecclesial structure all members are necessary, all charisms and services – each in its own way – contribute to the edification of the whole: “If they were all one part, where would the body be?” (v. 19). 2. – Diversity is the condition for communion, in such a way that “the parts may have the same concern one for another” (v. 25) and so, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (V. 26).
The gospel (Lk 1,1-4; 4,14-21) is composed of two literally independent pericopes: (a) (Lk 1,1-4): the prologue to all of the gospel, and (b) (Lk 4,14-21): the inaugural scene of the ministry of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth. We will comment separately on both texts.
1.– The prologue to the gospel of Luke (Lk 1,1-4) is an elegant paragraph with which Luke introduces and presents his work, written in the style of great Greek historians and with which he brings out his method and object in writing the book. He is the only one out of the four evangelists that begins a book with a prologue in which he explains his pretensions and method of brining them to realization. In the beginning the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the second part of Luke’s word, another prologue, shorter, refers us to the first (Acts 1,1-2).
Above all, Luke announces that he is going to speak of “the events that have been fulfilled among us” (v. 1). With these words he alludes fundamentally to the facts of the life of Jesus, also are included obviously the events in the history of the Church, such as are narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. Luke is not the first that is occupied with narrating these happenings (v. 3a). There are others that have done it before him (it is logical to think of the gospel of Mark). Luke, a Christian of the third generation, has elaborated on the events by “those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down” (v. 2); in other words, has gathered in part the traditions present in the gospels of Mark and Matthew, reflecting on that which Jesus said and of his work in the ancient Christian community. On this base of history (“the events that have been fulfilled among us” ) and of tradition (“…those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down”) Luke has composed his gospel in a careful and original form, with an undeniable religious depth and a literary expression of great beauty. In continuation, he defines his method: after investigating everything “accurately” and has written it down “in an orderly sequence.” He is not an ocular witness of that which he narrates, but has investigated carefully to recount everything with exactness. The reading of his work will make us understand that a didactic order is put forth more than a chronological one, of thought out and reflected exposition of the happenings and teachings of Jesus. Luke dedicates his work to Theophilus (cf. Acts 1,2), according to the custom of Hellenistic writings. Naturally, Luke has in mind a more ample public and that which he sets forth to do is to confirm the teachings that his predecessors have received represented in Theophilus (v. 4).
In the prologue we find, therefore, the diverse elements that compose the gospel of Luke and that have to be kept in mind upon reading it and interpreting it. As a starting point are the facts of the history of Jesus, through which God has offered his face and his word. As interpretation of these facts we accept the experience of the primitive Church that has reflected upon them and transmitted them. The final point is the literary work of Luke that has given order to all of the account. Dei Verbum in the 19th section mentions these three moment in the history of the formation of the gospels: (1) works and sayings of Jesus, (2) new intelligence of the apostolic Church that meditates, celebrates and proclaims the mystery of Christ and (3) the work of synthesis, selection and redaction of the evangelists at the moment of writing.
2. – The inaugural scene of the ministry of Jesus situates us in Galilee, where Jesus arrived from the Jordan “in the power of the Spirit” (Lk 4,14-21). Jesus goes to Nazareth, the city where he grew up, and enters on Saturday into the synagogue according to his custom. Luke ambiances significantly the “revelation” of the mission of Jesus in the context of the synagogue liturgy of Saturday morning, when all the people came together for worship. After the reading of the Torah, and the proclamation of the eighteen benedictions, Jesus takes the initiative to get up to do the second reading (v. 16). In the scroll of Isaiah that they hand to him he finds the text that permits him to show the character of the promise of the Scripture and its present fulfillment. The text cited by Luke combines two passages of Isaiah (Is 61,1 and Is 58,6), that together interpret the act of Jesus’ baptism (Lk 3,21-22). The descent of the spirit on Jesus in the Jordan was truly a “messianic anointing.” In the Old Testament, the “spirit” is the strength of God that leads to a future of liberty and of justice. Now Jesus, the Messiah, can say rightly, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Lk 4,18). Jesus, in effect, has been consecrated by the Spirit to carry good news to the poor of this world. His messianic work is directed explicitly to the poor, to prisoners, oppressed and blind. This terms resume the framework of misery of man and woman in the world: those that suffer from a physical defect (the blind), those that suffer according to the evil of others (oppressed and prisoners) and those that are victims of a social order and unjust economics (the poor).
Jesus handed back the book and sat down. Luke notes that “the eyes of all” in the synagogue looked intently at him (v. 20). Then Jesus adds: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Greek: sēmeron peplērotai ē graphē autē en tois ōsin ymōn). The fulfillment is brought about “today” ( sēmeron). It is the “today” of salvation that in Jesus opens before the oppressed and sinners, the “today” that resounds in the song of the angels of Bethlehem: “today is born unto you a Savior….” (Lk 2,11), and in the words that Jesus directs to the thief crucified at his side: “today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23,43). The Scripture is fulfilled in “your hearing” (en tois ōsin ymōn). It is interesting the passage that is given from the eyes to the ears. All those present want to see (v. 20: “the eyes of all”), nevertheless Jesus invites them to the fundamental act of “listening” to the Word. It is hearing – not seeing – the sense capable for perceiving the fulfillment of the Scripture. The fulfillment, in effect is described through the revealing power of the Word. Two important additions: here and today, time and place. The Scripture is not fulfilled only in the synagogue, but rather in the place of personal hearing: “in your hearing.” In every reader of Luke’s Gospel is brought about the today of salvation. In each community that listens and believes today is fulfilled the today of the year of grace and of liberation inaugurated by Jesus that morning in Nazareth.