Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it! (Lk 11: 28)
Within the heart of the liturgy
In today’s gospel reading (Luke 4:14-21) we are in the heart of the Sabbath morning liturgy. When Jesus gets up in the synagogue of Nazareth to do the prophetic reading, the reading of the Torah and the prayers included in the first part of the rite have already been proclaimed. It is in the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah that Jesus finds the foundational scriptural passage of his mission. Who knows how many times the Jewish faithful have heard and prayed these prophetic words that announce grace, mercy, justice and fraternity? We note that the prophetic text he reads speaks directly, not in the third person but in the first person: “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has anointed me. He has sent me…” But of whom does the Prophet speak, “is the prophet referring to himself or someone else?” (cf. Ac 8:34).
The “today” of Jesus
There are moments of silence, everyone is holding their breath. Jesus rerolls the scroll (it is he who opens it, it is he who closes it), hands it back to the attendant and sits down (the reading is done standing, the homily seated). Everyone’s eyes are on him. What will he say in the homily? However, Jesus does not preach, he does not comment on the text, he declares instead its fulfilment: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.” (Lk 4:21). Jesus himself is the fulfilment of the Scripture, he is the one consecrated with the anointing of the Spirit, sent to bring the Good News to the poor. He is the ‘year of favour’, the ‘jubilee’ who forgives debts, sets prisoners free, makes the poor rejoice and ‘mother earth’ breathe, she too is in need of rest and liberation.
In the synagogue of Nazareth, the verb of fulfilling. of fulness resounds: “This text is being fulfilled today”. It is the same verb that in Mark’s Gospel inaugurates Jesus’s preaching, “The time has come” (Mk 1:15). The time of the promise opens to the “today” of Jesus, a “today” that runs through the entire Gospel of Luke, from Bethlehem to the cross: “Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you”, the angel tells the shepherds (2:11); “Today salvation has come to this house”, Jesus tells Zacchaeus (19:9); “Today you will be with me in Paradise”, Jesus answers the evildoer crucified with him (23:43).
From seeing to hearing.
Note also the shift from ‘eyes’ to ‘ears’. The faithful present in the synagogue wanted to see (“And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.”), but Jesus leads them back to the biblical primacy of listening: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.” Today we too are challenged to move from the curiosity of seeing to the faith that comes from listening to the Word (Rom 10:17). Let us therefore activate the ‘beatitude of listening’! Only those who listen to the Word with faith, with all their hearts and with all their lives, will be able to be its witnesses and credible heralds. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it! (Lk 11: 28).