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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke 4,16-30

He came to Nazara, 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 is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

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 while you are listening.'

And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. They said, 'This is Joseph's son, surely?'

But he replied, 'No doubt you will quote me the saying, "Physician, heal yourself," and tell me, "We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own country." '

And he went on, 'In truth I tell you, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

'There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah's day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land,

but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a town in Sidonia.

And in the prophet Elisha's time there were many suffering from virulent skin-diseases in Israel, but none of these was cured -- only Naaman the Syrian.'

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.

They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him off the cliff,

but he passed straight through the crowd and walked away.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

With this passage we begin the continuous reading of Luke’s Gospel, which will accompany us through the end of the liturgical year. It is the first episode in Jesus’ apostolic life. Luke places it in the North, in the peripheral region of Palestine, in Nazareth, to be exact. Here Jesus begins his preaching. He shows up in the synagogue on the day of the Sabbath, during the customary prayer in which the local religious authorities and the more pious people participate. It certainly was not the first time that Jesus had gone to the synagogue. The evangelist notes that it was his "custom." It could be that he had "gotten up to read" on other occasions. It was the first time, however, that he expressed himself in the following way. He chose the passage in the prophet Isaiah where he speaks of the liberation of prisoners, of the blind recovering their sight, of the good news being announced to the poor. It was the good news that Isaiah announced. But, folding up the scroll, Jesus begins his first homily with an adverb: "Today;" and he then goes on: "This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." The reaction of his hearers was decidedly hostile: "When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They 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." We could ask ourselves from where such violent anger could come, such as to push those religious people to commit homicide. Had Jesus perhaps impinged on some interest which he shouldn’t have? Who had he bothered that they should want to eliminate him? Truly he had uttered words which applied to all and which asked of all not a generic change of heart, but total adhesion to him. But how was it possible that a fellow citizen, whom they moreover knew and had seen grow up, could pretend to be their saviour? It is this that the inhabitants of Nazareth resist. And this is their unbelief. It is not a matter of theoretical doubts, but rejecting that God could speak and act in everyday life. He proclaimed a "year of favour," that is, the end of all inequality, the end of the injustices created little by little among people, the end of oppression of some over others. And this "year of favour" began that day. But the inhabitants of Nazareth reject that proclamation and remained prisoners of their narrow-mindedness.

Memory of the Poor