September 3, 2012
Luke 4, 16-30
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/
Purpose of Sacred Observance
“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” The scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus addresses in today’s Gospel are mistaken about the meaning and purpose of the Sabbath observance. “You shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you” (Ex 31:13). The Sabbath is a sign of the holiness of God as well as the holiness of Israel, that the latter should glorify the former. For devout Jews then as now, the proper way to do so is to refrain from work. As a sign of the Sabbath’s holiness, the Mosaic Law enjoins the severest penalty for those who break it.
The Pharisees’ error is not that they insist on observing the Sabbath as prescribed by the Law, but that they fail to see that the miracles of Jesus glorify God in a totally new way and constitute a sign of still greater wonders that the Lord was to do on behalf of His people. The telltale mark of their hardness of heart is that they “watched him closely… so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.” Their rigidity has led them into the pitfall of devout people in every age: using the supposed purity of their own observance as a stick with which to beat others. Here they are seeking to beat God himself.
The observance of the Lord’s Day in our own times generally suffers not from excessive rigidity, but from tepidity and neglect. Sunday, along with other holidays like today, is not simply a day off to do whatever one wants. It is rather a day set aside for thanksgiving and for glorifying God in all that one does. Above all this means prayer and worship, especially Mass. But it also means spending time with family and other loved ones, who so often suffer the effects of our busyness. At times Christian practice, imitating in some respects the Mosaic Law, has infused the Sunday observance with a killjoy ethos. This too is a distortion. Sundays and other holidays are opportunities to experience and share the joy that flows from praising and honoring God.
—Sam Conedera, S.J
Lord, how quickly the people would change their opinion of you. Sometimes you were the hottest thing in town; the next day you were despised and threatened with your life. Regardless of the situation, you remained constant in your mission and clung to your Father’s faithfulness. Lord, help us to always put our loyalty to you before our selfish need to be liked, admired, or rewarded by those in power. This is a day by day effort. We must consistently remind ourselves that if we live to glorify you, Lord, we will be freed of our neediness to be recognized by the fickle opinions of others.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
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