When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’”
And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Jesus states to the assembly in no uncertain terms that he will work to liberate those who are oppressed. Listeners would have understood the cause of the oppression to be the symptom of empire-building and adherence to religious laws, so they were undoubtedly defensive and most certainly threatened by Jesus’ proclamation.
Being fully human, Jesus must have been terribly afraid as a result of the mob’s threats against him. “But he passed through the midst of them and went away.” Perhaps he was able to summon this courage only by drawing on his deep connection to the Father. In that relationship he found a reserve of peace and strength which sustained him during his many prophetic ordeals.
Likewise, we can draw on the same unlimited reservoir of peace and strength by allowing ourselves to enter into meaningful relationship with God, to be in touch with God’s mission for us.
—Matt Kemper is the Director of Community Service at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati.
Lord God, on this Labor Day, we thank you for the blessing of work and we pray for all those who are seeking work that reflects their dignity as human beings. May we have the courage to speak for those who are marginalized, regardless of the personal cost. Give us the strength to live out your mission for us in the world.
—The Jesuit Prayer team
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