Do Our Eyes Look Intently Upon Him?

synagogue torahWriting an autobiography is not as easy as it sounds. We are immediately faced with choices: Do we strictly tell the facts of our lives, or do we help people get an insight into our likes and dislikes, emotions and feelings, ambitions and goals? How much of what we really are do we want to reveal? As a young novice, we were asked to write an autobiography that was metaphorical and contained both facts and self-revelation. I remember using a song that was popular at the time. How we wrote depended on what we wanted to convey.

At the beginning of Luke’s gospel he explicitly states that he sets out to “compile a narrative of the events” of Jesus’ person and mission. He claims that he has “investigat[ed] everything accurately anew.” Luke wants to get it right. He knows how important his writing is—its purpose is to “realize the certainty of the teachings” Jesus brought us. Luke’s story of Jesus, however, is more than facts.

In this gospel Jesus clearly proclaims who he is and what he comes to bring. He is One who lives “in the power of the Spirit”; he comes to bring a new teaching. He is God’s anointed; he comes to bring the human community glad tidings, liberty, sight, freedom, favor. He is the long-awaited Messiah; he comes to bring manifest signs of salvation. The “eyes of all . . . looked intently at him.” Do our eyes look intently upon him? Why should we? Because in Jesus is fulfilled all our longings, all our hopes, all our expectations.

The same intensity with which the people of Nehemiah’s time heard the Law proclaimed by Ezra is focused on Jesus in the synagogue. Their intense anticipation is met by Jesus’ dramatic assertion that the Scripture passage from Isaiah “is fulfilled” in their hearing. In the first reading Ezra reads from the book of the Law; in the gospel Jesus is the book, the Good News, the Word made flesh. Ezra interprets what he read; in the gospel Jesus himself is the interpretation. Ezra’s word was an inspiring word that had power and moved the people to worship and praise; Jesus’ word is a creative word fulfilled in him and continues in the gospel in which we ourselves encounter Jesus and are moved to be disciples. The feasting, joy, and new strength on the holy day when Ezra read the Law are now fulfilled in a new order in which the feasting is on Jesus and the strength comes from our sharing in the same Spirit.

Jesus is enfleshed today in the lives of those who encounter him, the gospel’s very fulfillment, throughout the ages. Now we—our own lives—announce the meaning of the Word proclaimed and enfleshed. We can do so because, like Jesus, in our baptism we also have been anointed with the Spirit. By our baptism we have received a share in Jesus’ saving deeds. As his followers, we make  present his saving mystery.

Living the paschal mystery means that we continually look for the poor, captive, blind, and oppressed among us. We don’t have to look very far! “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled” is now true only when we ourselves respond to those around us who need a nourishing, strengthening, joyful word. This means that God’s word isn’t something we only hear on Sunday, but becomes a living word in our hearts, inspiring us to be in our very selves living gospels. As we gradually grow into being anointed by the Spirit, we, like Jesus, are the fulfillment of the Scriptures.

Living Liturgy 2016