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Lord’s message of deliverance

The second part of today’s gospel (Luke 4:14-21) is the beginning of Jesus’ public life in his hometown, Nazareth. He visits the synagogue and takes this opportunity to launch his message (v.16). 

The first detail, though seemingly superfluous, is the opening of the book that was presented to him. 

The evangelist wants to make it clear to his readers that without Christ the sacred text is a closed book, the oracles of the prophets, and all the books of the Old Testament remain incomprehensible. Only he is able to make sense of them.

The chosen text is taken from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy” (vv. 17-19). 

Who is the man charged with bringing good news to the poor? Who is Isaiah talking about? The prophet refers to a character who, about 400 years before Christ, was sent by God to comfort the children of Israel who returned from exile in Babylon. 

They lived in an unjust situation, which we see in today’s first
reading: the rich exploiting the poor, the owners not paying their
workers and the powerful dominating the powerless (cf. Isaiah 56:10–57:2). 

In this historical context, a man invested by the Spirit of the Lord is sent to proclaim the year of grace jubilee, the time when all debts are waved off, ending all forms of slavery and re-establishing justice.

Today—Jesus begins to proclaim—these prophetic words come true (v.21). He does not comment on the text of the prophet, but proclaims its fulfilment.

Today begins the year of grace, the endless feast for everyone, because to everyone, in God’s name, salvation, free and without conditions, is announced.

The Hebrew word used by Isaiah to indicate the release of prisoners is deror, meaning release from what prevents one from running fast. 

Today the word of Jesus delivers us not only from physical disease, but from all psychological and moral barriers that afflict us and inhibit our growth in charity.

He delivers us from the tangle of uncontrolled passions that make us selfish, our thirst for possessions, power and glory. 

The irresistible force that breaks them is the Holy Spirit (v.14), who is at work in Jesus not only when he performs miraculous healings, but also when, with his powerful word, he breaks the bonds that envelop and keep people in the state of slavery (Luke 4:36).

Father Fernando Armellini CMF     
Claretian Publications