January 20, 2010

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Brian Pizzalato *
First ReadingNeh. 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10

Responsorial PsalmPs. 19:8, 9, 10, 15

Second Reading1 Cor. 12:12:30

Gospel ReadingLk. 1:1-4; 4:14-21 

The Gospel of Luke opens with an address to Theophilus. The name “Theophilus” means “lover of God,” therefore this beautiful Gospel is addressed to all those who love God, “so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received” (Lk 1:4).  

In the second part of this Sunday’s Gospel reading from Luke we are told about Jesus’ visit to a synagogue in Nazareth. Luke tells us, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Lk 4:14). This comes after “the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove” in his baptism by John in the Jordan, and after he was “led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days” (Lk 3:22; 4:1-2).  

Now Jesus goes into the synagogue, “according to his custom,” stands up, unrolls the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and purposefully looks for the passage he wants to read. He reads from Isaiah 61:1-2 where it says, “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 the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”   

Following the reading Jesus says something of the utmost significance: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). In order to help us see the importance of this reality, Hugh of St. Victor says, “All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ; because all Sacred Scripture speaks of Christ, and all Sacred Scripture is fulfilled in Christ.” Rupert of Deutz makes clear, “We would not understand the Scriptures if they had not been fulfilled in him.” Now, we might ask what exactly is being fulfilled in Christ in this passage from Isaiah.  

The passage from Isaiah that Christ fulfills in their hearing is packed-full of meaning.  

First, Jesus is the long-awaited messianic king. Jesus, by virtue of his being anointed by the Holy Spirit, is the Messiah, which means “anointed one.” The Baptism of Jesus is his royal anointing (cf. Lk 4:18). Jesus is truly in the line of the Davidic kings, and thus he is the fulfillment of the covenant made with David (cf. 2 Sm 7). As Tim Gray notes in his book Mission of the Messiah, “It was known that the Messiah would be a king, because ‘the Lord’s anointed’ was a title for the King of Israel” (p. 25).  

Second, Jesus proclaims that he is the fulfillment of what the jubilee year in the Old Testament was all about. Jesus comes to “proclaim liberty to the captives…and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk 4:18, 19). “And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants” (Lv 25:10). This meant that every 50 years all debts were to be canceled, all slaves were to be freed, and all lands were to be returned to the families that originally owned them.  

Jesus fulfills the Jubilee year not by canceling monetary debt, or freeing slaves from their masters, or returning a patch of earth back to the original owners. He accomplishes what the Jubilee year was pointing ahead to all along. With regard to Christ, “The slaves to be freed are those enslaved to sin. The debts to be canceled are the sins of both Jews and Gentiles. The inheritance (land) to be restored is not Palestine, but Eden, the original patrimony of Adam and his children. The land to which the new Joshua (Jesus) will lead His people is the Promised Land of heaven” (Gray, p. 37).  

How is this to occur in the lives of the people of Jesus’ day, and our day? At the end of the Gospel of Luke Jesus promises to give us the gift he was given in his baptism - namely the Holy Spirit. He says, “And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49).  

In conclusion, the Catechism tells us, “This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people” (1287). By receiving the Holy Spirit, Christ has set us free from slavery to sin, thus canceling the debt owed by our sinfulness, so that we might one day share in the glory of the beatific vision of heaven.

Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate, Diocese of Duluth and is a faculty member of the Philosophy department of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England.

Brian writes a monthly column, “Veritatis Splendor,” for The Northern Cross of the Diocese of Duluth and his 33-part series on the sacraments for The Northern Cross have also been posted on Catholic News Agency's website, where he also authors a weekly column, “Road to Emmaus,” on the Sunday Readings, (which are translated into Romanian and posted on www.profamilia.ro).

Pizzalato is currently authoring the regular series, "Catechesis and Contemporary Culture," in The Sower, published by the Maryvale Institute. He is also author of the Philosophy of Religion course book for the B.A. in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition at the Maryvale Institute.

Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. Brian currently pursuing an M.A. in Biblical Studies at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO as well as being a Ph.D. candidate at the Maryvale Institute. Brian is married and has six children.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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