“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21)
When I was a seminarian few years back, a parish was robbed by a gang of thieves, who not only carried away the Parish treasures but, more shockingly, went to the Church tabernacle and scattered the whole consecrated host all over the place and left. The whole parish was thrown into mourning, prayer and atonement for the desecration of the holy house of God. Of course, no life was lost. I can still remember what one of the parishioners said while we were having conversation. According to her, “Why did God allow them to come and desecrate his temple and scatter his body all over the place without striking them all dead.” She continued, “That is why I love the God of Old Testament. He would have struck them with lightening instantly.” She believes that things have changed today and not what it used to be, which makes her wonder if God is still God.
Apart from this young lady, there are many of us who think the best days of Christianity are far behind us. A lot of people read the bible and hear of the many miracles which Jesus performed, and say, “Yes, that was when God was God.” This has led to the valorisation of the past. Most other people, on the other hand, who find themselves in different forms of sufferings believe that they have to endure everything because on the last day, God will give them consolation in heaven. So, they look to the future with hope. In other words, most Christians have been discovered to express high level of nostalgia and anxiety. They are consumed with the memories of the past and hope for the future. For this people, God remains an idea and not a reality or a person. The past and future become more central that the present becomes lost.
In the gospel of today, Jesus, after reading out his inaugural mission statement, says, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). After reading from the prophet Isaiah, all the people fixed their eyes on him. They wanted to hear what he would say. Jesus did not start by telling the people about the beautiful vision of a just kingdom by their forefathers – how the land was filled with milk and honey as God convenanted with Moses. No. He didn’t do that. Jesus could have also started by presenting to them about the world to come, where there will be no more weeping, no more COVID-19, no more illness and so on. No, he didn’t do that either. He rather said, “TODAY”, not yesterday, not tomorrow. TODAY. In the first reading, those who heard Ezra read the word of God, were hearing Abraham, Moses and all the exodus events that happened thousand of years back. As they listened, they saw its relevance for them that day. In the gospel, Jesus took the book of the Prophet Isaiah that was written centuries back and read it to the people. He told them it had relevance for them that day. Today, Jesus is telling us that his Word is alive and active. For us who hear this Word of God today, may it be fulfilled in your life, our lives.
Jesus wants us to recognize him in the here and now; in the present moment and time. We have to discover our place in the whole sacred drama. We are actors and agents in the whole divine plot and Theo-drama. By emphasizing the word, “today”, Jesus transforms Isaiah’s prophesy into an invitation for all of us hearing this, to act on behalf of God’s justice in our world. What we need is here. Today. His name is I AM. He still is. God is not dead.