Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
“The eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.” Indeed, they did. And with reason. The Savior, who was for the inhabitants of Nazareth their neighbor, cousin, childhood playmate, fellow student, coworker, and, it seemed, aspiring rabbi, had just claimed to be the Messiah—that is, the Anointed One, the Christ, promised by God and foretold by the prophets, and most explicitly by Isaiah.
The selection from the Torah that the Jewish liturgy reads along with this passage of the prophet is from Exodus. And what does it recount? Precisely Moses’ giving of the Law for the first time. And of course, the only man who would be greater than Moses when he finally had come, would be the Christ of God, the Messiah. All this as an introduction to Our Lord’s announcement of its fulfillment, that is of the Law and the Prophets, was a very rich combination indeed. As is later shown in this passage, the Savior’s fellow townsmen and even relatives did not take kindly to what he said. So yes, astounded, amazed, and moving toward outrage, the eyes of all were fixed on him.
He read standing up, like any good Jewish layman would do, but then after his announcement, he sat down, a clear assertion of the authority to teach and to interpret the scriptures. This left little room to think that he was not serious about his assertion “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Well, when the Church proposes a Gospel reading for holy Mass along with the other readings from the Old and New Testaments that accompany it, the priest, standing in the person of Christ, could legitimately say precisely not of himself only, but of Christ and of his mystical body the Church—all of us, along with the saints in heaven and the souls of the faithful departed who await their entry there—“All of this has been accomplished, all of this is fulfilled in us who are united to Christ.”
Sometimes we may hear it blandly said that we are to apply the scriptures to our own practical lives. This is true enough. Today’s Gospel, however, shows that application to be nothing less than a fulfillment. It is a thing of great power that has been predestined for us, designed and planned for us by our loving God and Redeemer.
The life of the Christian in the light of God’s Word is an event, a saving event, an episode that once again fulfills the Lord’s promises and the prophets’ longing for their coming true at last.
How chilled to the bone and terrified Our Lord’s enemies must have been when they heard him recite Psalm 21 as he hung on the cross. This psalm visually describes the crucifixion, and was fulfilled unmistakably in their hearing. Now their eyes were fixed intently upon him as another prophecy was coming about “And they shall look on him whom they have pierced.”
Today, beloved people, we have according to the Lord’s promise his own Body and Blood offered for us on the cross presented to our eyes under a sacrament of bread and wine. The very words that bring about the consecration are ones that tell us, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
He is with us, as he promised, until the end of the world. His words are so powerful that they bring about what they say. “This is my Body. This is the chalice of my Blood.”
When we are in church, at that moment, the eyes of all should look intently upon him raised up for our adoration, and hasten to receive the graces in abundance on ourselves, our families and all the world, as well as our dear dead, that his sacrifices pours out on us.
And we will not be skeptics like the villagers of Nazareth, but believers and lovers of the One who promised “The one who feeds on me will live because of me” and “I will raise him up on the last day.”
What a great hope is ours! What graces in profusion flow from every holy Mass in our own congregation. Glory to Christ who has given us all this and heavenly glory besides!