Reflection on 3rd Sunday: 23rd Jan 2022

What do we bring to our listening? 

‘Today’s gospel reading is often described as Jesus’ inaugural address, his mission statement. He is saying very clearly what he is going to stand for and it is summarised so simply. He ends the quote from Isaiah with the proclamation of a year of favour from the Lord but he omits the words which follow in Isaiah 61:2 : “and the day of our God’s vengeance.” Jesus has not come to proclaim judgment. His message is not one of retribution or retributive justice. This is a classic text for what we call restorative justice. God’s justice is fulfilled by lovingly and patiently remaking us into His image and likeness. Jesus announced that he has come to replace the old Jewish love of law with a new law of love.’1 We know only too well how those in the synagogue responded to Jesus’ words. The verses following today’s reading indicate how ‘they closed their minds to the message and the messenger. The whole episode shows that what we hear depends greatly on what we bring to our listening.’2

What do we bring to our listening to God when he speaks to us? We have heard the weekly readings so often. Do we really listen to them?  For many years the practice of Lectio Divina  (Divine Reading) has been a recognised way of praying the Scriptures, where we keep returning to a word or phrase which deepens our experience of God’s oneness with us. ‘We are like a child who chooses the same bedtime story night after night and never tires of hearing it. It’s not just the book that the parents are reading. It’s also the way the parents and child are connecting in the reading of the book and delighting in their relationship.’ [3] ‘Hearing is about more than sound. It is about our presence, openness, and receptivity.’ [4] When we bring these qualities to our listening we are like the pre-school child who was listening to his teacher tell a story. When it was finished, he rubbed his tummy and said, “I feel so full!”

At the beginning of each year, let us become as little children and bring the familiar Scripture stories and sit in the presence of God. ‘We’re not listening for information. It’s not our intention to be transformed or to grow, although that will happen. Our desire is simply to be in relationship with the Source of infinite love.’3 And maybe we will hear Jesus say to us, ‘This is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ 

Adapted: [1] Richard Rohr    [2] galwaydiocese.ie/reflection    [3] James Finley  [4] Michael Marsh

Gospel Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21 

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received. 

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him. 

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the Synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written: ‘The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.  He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.’ 

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”