A Jubilee Day

Luke 4:16-30
1 Cor 2: 1-5 / Psa 119

Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.
(Luke 4:21)

Let’s set aside one day in a week,
A special day to honor the Lord,
To help the poor, the lost, or the sick,
Or sinners to our God be restored.

Jesus went to Nazareth, where He had grown up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. He stood up to read, and a scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ I tell you the truth,” He continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way. (Luke 4:16-30)

Reflection

What did our Lord mean when he said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”? He was quoting the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2), particularly, “to preach good news to the poor,” freedom for the prisoners,” “sight for the blind,” “release for the oppressed,” and “the year of the Lord’s favor.” This last clearly referred to the year of the Jubilee, which every Jew was familiar with. In the book of Leviticus, Yahweh God declared through Moses, “When you enter the land I am giving you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the LORD. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the Lord… Whatever the land yields during the Sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary residents who live among you.” (Lev.25:1-4,6). In the year of the Jubilee, every Jew then was commanded to forgo the debts of the poor, give freedom to slaves, food and shelter to the hungry stranger, etc. This was “the year of the Lord’s favor” to show their gratitude to God for bringing them out of slavery in Egypt to their “Promised land of milk and honey.” It was just apt that on that Sabbath day, Jesus was referring to Himself as the fulfillment of the old Scriptures, because He was preaching the Good News of salvation, freeing the prisoners of afflictions and demon possession, healing the blind, etc. He was the personification of the Sabbath itself.

In the next breath, however, knowing that His own town mates would reject Him, He cited the prophets Elijah and Elisha, who were also rejected by their own people, and therefore transferred God’s favors to the Gentiles (widow in Zarephath & Naaman the Syrian). Jesus was thus predicting the transfer of God’s favor from the Jews to the Gentile world (the future Christians). True enough, His words so inflamed the Jews of his hometown that they wanted to kill Him. By alienating Him, they had alienated themselves from God’s favor.

Jesus may well be telling us in today’s Gospel passage that we must set aside a special day (Sunday perhaps) when we can endear ourselves to God’s favor by being more charitable to the poor (or to our subordinates or household helpers), by offering prayers to those who exclude us from their lives, and by sharing the Word of God to those who are still “blind” to the truth of the Gospel. Let us make that special day a “Jubilee Day” for the Lord, if only to show our gratitude to Him for all the blessings that he has bestowed in our life.

Father God, please take away whatever biases or prejudice we may have for the people we alienate in our life, especially the poor and the afflicted, the beggars who bother us on our way to work, and even the people who have excluded us from their lives. Help us to be more patient and understanding, just as You have been with us. Amen.

Comments are closed.