Wed, January 19, 202210 mins readFather Hans Buob

3rd Sunday

Biblical Homilies on the Sunday Gospels in Reading Year C

Bible passages


Luke 1, 1-4; 4, 14-21

Many have tried to write a narrative about the events that took place among us. In doing so, they have followed the tradition of those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word from the beginning. Now I too, having carefully followed everything from the beginning, have decided to write it down for you, dear Theophilus, one by one. In this way, you can convince yourself of the reliability of the teaching you have been instructed in. Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee. And news about him spread throughout the region. He taught in the synagogues and was praised by all. So he also came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was his custom. When he got up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He opened it and found the passage where it is written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are wounded, and to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord. Then he closed the scroll, handed it to the synagogue usher, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to explain to them: Today the Bible word you have just heard has been fulfilled.

Biblical Homilies


"Many have tried to write a narrative of the events that took place among us. In this they followed the tradition of those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word." (cf. verses 1-2)

St. Luke writes to Theophilus, a baptized Christian, and his concern in this Gospel is to make visible God's action in the life of Christ. Thus, his Gospel is not about God's action in the Church - which Luke then describes in the Acts of the Apostles - but about God's action in the life of Christ, which was completed in Christ's resurrection and ascension.

The formulation "what happened and was fulfilled among us" (v. 1:1) makes it clear that this saving work of God in Christ's life is not in the past, but remains present until Christ's return.

Even then there were several testimonies written about these events, which Luke carefully edited. For example, the Gospel of St. Mark, which we looked at last year (reading year B) and which was certainly written before Luke and was therefore already available to him. Luke is therefore referring to reliable sources that have already reported what the eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word told them, i.e., not simply some fantasy. These are texts from the eyewitnesses (especially the twelve apostles) and may even have been examined by them. All these testimonies have been handed down to us, i.e., to the Church.

"Now I too have decided, after having carefully followed everything from the beginning, to write it down for you, esteemed Theophilus. In this way you can be convinced of the reliability of the teaching in which you have been instructed." (cf. verse 3-4)

So Luke sifted through all the written documents that were already there and arranged them in order. It is possible that he also checked with the apostles who were still alive at the time to make sure that the reports were true. Luke accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys and Paul also went with him to the other apostles to make sure that their message really corresponded to the message of Christ, as we learn in the Acts of the Apostles.

So Luke sifted through all the written documents that were already there and arranged them in order. It is possible that he also checked with the apostles who were still alive at the time to make sure that the reports were true. Luke accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys and Paul also went with him to the other apostles to make sure that their message really corresponded to the message of Christ, as we learn in the Acts of the Apostles.

So Luke didn't just want to write something vague about Jesus and his teachings, but he wanted to have a sure record of what Jesus did, his signs and wonders, and what he taught. This is why Luke's Gospel is a "great Gospel" compared to Mark's Gospel: Luke has many more chapters than Mark and is therefore a much larger Gospel. And Luke also brings something new, which no other Gospel tells us: the whole childhood story of Jesus.

Luke names a certain Theophilus as the recipient and target of his Gospel, a Christian who has already been baptized and who is supposed to be able to verify from Luke's record that he has been introduced to true Apostolic teaching - for false doctrines and false teachers were already appearing by then - and who, with the help of this Gospel, can also become more familiar with Apostolic teaching.

"Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee. And news about him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in the synagogues and was praised by all." (cf. verse 4:14-15)

In what follows, today's pericope takes a jump to chapter 4 of Luke's Gospel. It is preceded by the baptism of Jesus by John, in which Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and confirmed in his task by the voice of the Father. In this baptismal event, Jesus' entire subsequent ministry is established: Jesus returned to Galilee filled with the power of the Spirit. Until then he had not performed any signs and wonders, but had lived normally among the people, so that the Nazarenes could say: Who is this Jesus you think he is? He is a completely normal person who lived among us for 30 years without us noticing anything unusual about him.

After the baptism event, however, Jesus now has the full power of the Holy Spirit at his disposal. The Spirit of God does not dominate the man Jesus in a negative sense, but the Son, namely Jesus, now works in the Spirit: Jesus teaches with authority and his works of proclamation healing and demonic exorcisms through the power of the Spirit. And so Jesus really becomes known more through his deeds of power - the miracles and demonic exorcisms - than through his teaching. His work can no longer remain hidden because of these acts of power. They are a sign that God is with him. But in the end, Jesus was not concerned with these signs and wonders - they were all just to point out his teaching and confirm him as God's messenger, so that people would believe his word.

Jesus' ministry is now that of an itinerant preacher, meaning that he didn't know where to lay his head. And Jesus is praised by everyone. The Greek word for this "praise" only really applies to Jesus here in the entire New Testament, if not to God alone. However, this praise of Jesus does not last, as next Sunday's Gospel will show. For suddenly Jesus is no longer praised by the people, but questioned. Yes, they even want to kill him.

"So he also came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was his custom. When he stood up to read, they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He opened it and found the passage where it is written:" (cf. verse 4, 16-17).

Luke places the event described here at the beginning of Jesus' public appearance. This solemn initial event is therefore of the greatest importance, because here Jesus, in a sense, lays out his entire program of life, from beginning to death, and thus reveals himself.

When it says in verse 15, "Then he also came to Nazareth ...", this is not simply a geographical indication, but in this word of God, which the Gospel always is, there is something greater: it signifies the absolute coming of Jesus into the world. He comes into the world now and remains with us until the end of the world. This coming of Jesus, however, takes place in secret, precisely in the form of a human being. His divinity and his glory are still hidden at this moment.

Normally, the synagogue leader asks some adult member of the congregation to read the Scriptures, but here Jesus stands up on his own initiative. This is a sign that he is sent by a higher authority, namely - through the earlier baptism in the Jordan - by the Father: "You are my beloved Son, in you I set my affection." (St. Mark, 1:11)

"This is my beloved Son, in whom I set my affection." (St. Matthew 3:17), "This is my beloved Son, in whom I have set all my affection; listen to him." (St. Matthew 17:5) It is on this authority that Jesus himself takes the scroll and recites the text of the prophet Isaiah.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are wounded, and to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord." (cf. verse 4:18-19)

This passage puts Jesus' baptismal event in a new light. Jesus was anointed with power and the Holy Spirit at the baptism in the Jordan, just as the prophet says here. And now he claims this statement for himself: The Lord anointed me and sent me. Jesus was anointed in such a way that the fullness of the Spirit rested upon him permanently, as it says here in the prophet, "The Spirit of the Lord rests upon me." This makes it clear that the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry has its reason in the baptism in the Jordan. And this is why this baptism of Jesus in the Jordan is such an important event. That is why Pope John Paul II included it as the first meditation of the Rosary, which is full of light. At his baptism, Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit, and this is now available to him throughout his life, until he expires it on the cross, as it is to his bride, who is in Mary under the cross: the Church.

About Jesus' mission and his incarnation, which precedes the anointing of the Spirit in the Jordan, the Letter to the Hebrews states:

"Therefore Christ says at his coming into the world, Sacrifices and meat offerings thou hast not required, but a body which thou hast made me; burnt offerings and sin offerings in which thou hast no pleasure. Then I said, "Behold, I come (for it is of me that it is written in the scroll of the book), I come, O God, to do your will." (Hebrews 10:5- 7) This, then, is the mission and will of the Father, and Jesus has now come to accept this mission, to proclaim "a year of the Lord's favor" (v. 19). This year of the Lord's favor is not just one year, but the time between his first and second return.

Above all, Jesus expresses in these verses the content of his mission, his essential activity, namely: proclaiming the Good News, revealing the mystery of God, setting captives free - that is, the ministry of deliverance, of liberation from demons - and healing. These three things are the essential content of his mission, and exactly these three things he also entrusted to the apostles. They are to preach the Word of God, they are to heal the sick and cast out demons. At the end of Mark's Gospel, Jesus even assigns this mission to all the baptized, to the whole Church. So Jesus does not give this mission only to the apostles, but to the whole Church - even today. But then the question arises: Is the Church fulfilling the three mandates that the Lord has given her? The mission of proclamation comes first and also seems to be the least problematic in our time. In 2000, the then Cardinal Ratzinger published an article about the other two missions, which are usually not emphasized so much: the ministry of healing and the ministry of deliverance. These two are also Christ's ministry, they are the content of his mission, and therefore also the mission of the Church, which he literally entrusted to her. And here already today we have to consider: Are we, as the Church, really up to this mission of Christ today? Do we correctly classify the content of his mission? For Jesus says that he came to proclaim a year of grace from the Lord, that is, salvation comes in the word, in the proclamation. This proclamation comes first. Healings and exorcisms are also included, but ultimately it is the proclamation of salvation that comes first, that goes beyond earthly needs-healing the sick, raising the dead, exorcising demons. Jesus is the bearer of salvation par excellence. That becomes very clear here.

"Then he closed the scroll, handed it to the servant of the synagogue, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to expound to them, 'Today the word of Scripture which you have just heard has been fulfilled.'" (cf. 4:20-21)

Together with the people in the synagogue, Luke wants to make us look forward to what is to come. How will Jesus now explain his program based on the word of the prophet? For now is the time when the word of this prophet will be fulfilled, namely through his coming, as Jesus says. The last verse 21 is at the same time the first verse of next Sunday's Gospel, so that we can already look forward with the Nazarenes, so to speak, to what this really means: "Today the word of Scripture which you have just heard has been fulfilled." ∎