3rd Sunday Advert C
Sunday 23rd January 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Lk 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Even though many have narrated our beliefs as they have been told to us by eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed a good idea for me, who has acquired all the details, to draw up an accurate account for you, my dear Theophilus so that you can be reassured about all you have been told.
Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit from his temptation in the desert and went to Galilee. His fame spread right through the region. He taught in their synagogues and was acclaimed by all. Then he came to Nazareth, where he had been reared. On the Sabbath day, he went to the synagogue, as he usually did. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him and he unrolled it till it came to the passage which read: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor,
to proclaim release for the captive,
sight to the blind,
release for the oppressed,
to preach the year of the Lord’s favour.’
He then rolled up the scroll, handed it to the attendant and sat down. Everyone looked at him intently. He then said, ‘Today, these words are being fulfilled even as you hear them.’
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 18:8-10, 15
The Law of the Lord is prefect
it renews the soul.
The rule of the Lord is sure,
it makes the simple wise.
The statutes of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commandments of the Lord are pure,
enlightening one’s eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
The judgements of the Lord are true
and altogether righteous.
Let the words of my mouth
and the musings of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord,
my rock and my redeemer.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, you have anointed us with your Spirit in baptism. By that power may we witness to the salvation and freedom that Jesus offers to all bound by sin and weakness. Give me the strength to face my own weakness and there find your life-giving grace. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
This Sunday’s Gospel contains three beginnings: the beginning of the Gospel proper, then, from some chapters later, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and then of his preaching. Two of these ‘beginnings’ contain a manifesto. Luke, in his introduction, offers the reason for, and methodology of writing this Gospel. He addresses his reader, Theophilus in the best Greek, using the formal introduction of a historical narrative. An educated reader of the Roman Empire would know to take this work seriously. Luke is telling his reader that his Gospel is the result of diligent research and careful construction.
We see this care in the deliberate ways he presents Jesus’ first preaching. Unlike Mark and Matthew, Luke places Jesus preaching in his home town at the very beginning of the public ministry. It occurs at the synagogue in an ordinary Sabbath service, where any adult male could read, preach and open the discussion. That Jesus’ preaching is different is shown by the careful, deliberate way Luke has Jesus stand, unroll the scroll, read, roll up the scroll, sit and speak. It is as though time has stood still in this moment.
And what is the text Jesus chooses to read: an interweaving of two texts from Third Isaiah, the prophet who had proclaimed a joyful, abundant salvation to the exiled community of Israel. With these words, Jesus affirms to his own people, to those who knew him as fully human, that he is the one bringing salvation, bringing to the needy release from their suffering. When Jesus states that ‘today this text is being fulfilled’ he is drawing on a tradition that held that every Jew was present, in some way, to the salvation that had been offered in the Exodus and through salvation history. Now, it comes to its full revelation and release in the person of Jesus.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
This Sunday’s text contains the first piece of preaching given by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. Essentially, it is just a short quote from the prophet Isaiah, nothing original, yet its role in the Gospel is analogous to that of the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel: it is Jesus’ ‘manifesto’. This text does not come out of the blue. Luke has spent three chapters preparing for it. Jesus is born of poor parents, worshiped by despised shepherds, recognised by the marginalised elderly. He has identified with sinful Israel in the baptism of repentance. In the desert he experienced his own weakness, hunger and vulnerability. There, he was tested and rejected the temptation to use the ways of the world, power, prestige and wonders, to influence people. So far in this Gospel, he has identified with the poor and weak and intimated that it will be in poverty and weakness that he would offer salvation.
So what is his manifesto? It begins by affirming that the power of the Spirit of God, is behind him. Then four suffering groups of people are presented with the form of release from suffering that Jesus will bring them. The term ‘release’ is crucial here. Unfortunately the English translation used in the Lectionary does not clearly express the term. Release is given to captives, the oppressed are released. As well, an Israelite hearing of the Lord’s year of favour would think of the release from debt and slavery that the Law mandated in the Sabbatical Year. Thus the heart of Jesus’ preaching is a release from what binds or constricts the human person. Essentially, the worst that can happen to anyone is to be bound by sin. This is real poverty, true captivity, debilitating blindness, the worst subjugation. Jesus comes to enter into human life where people are most poor, weak and in need of salvation. Having experienced our weakness and fragility, he offers release to us who have given in to sin. Once he has a beachhead within us, then his power to transform can flow into the world in which we live and our love, and our service then will be in the power of his Spirit.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
Manifestos and Mission Statements are a common feature of our society. We regularly see plaques at entrances and in offices proclaiming the fine values by which that group will operate. They show a commitment to the finest service with the best quality products. We may even have our own personal statement. When people come to write such declarations they aim to express the finest ideals with the best dreams. Mmmmm… but what happens when reality gets in the way.
When Jesus presents his manifesto, it is different. It comes after he had identified himself with sinners, experienced weakness and temptation in the desert. Furthermore it is given to the group with whom a person is usually the most vulnerable: family and local community. Not only is it given by one who has embraced weakness in its various forms, it is directed to those who experience a radical lack in their lives. This manifesto faces the crack of sin and failure that rends every human heart and there it offers salvation. Talk about reality based!
It is still early days into the New Year and those of us who embraced New Year’s resolutions maybe facing the failure of our ideals caused by the reality of our weakness. Perhaps we can start afresh and write our own manifesto in response to the one that Jesus has offered. This Sunday’s Gospel invites us to name and own our sin, weakness and failure, not to be debilitated by it, but rather as a place where we can meet the merciful salvation offered by Jesus. Then we might find that the shifting sands of our sins become the cement of God’s grace.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
- An ancient Icon of Jesus preaching at Nazareth (click red text)
- Jesus preaching in the synagogue (click red text) by William Hole Brassey.
- Jesus unrolls the scroll in the synagogue) (click red text) by James Tissot.
Keeping the Faith
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
As you go through this week, notice the times when you feel oppressed or forced into behaviours that make you unhappy. These may come from circumstances beyond your control. They may come from bad habits. As you notice these situations, mull on what kind of freedom Jesus may be offering you in the power of his Spirit.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
Review the various parts of your life and name the areas where you feel oppressed, down-hearted and can see no way out of the situation. Focus on one area and ask the Spirit to come upon you. Gently think about all the different ways this undermines the fullness of life in you. When you have a sense of the extent of the problem, bring it to Jesus and ask him to guide your heart and your imagination. Try to see new ways by which you can face the area, even if there seems to be little that you can change other than your attitude.
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- Bring Forth the Kingdom by Marty Haugen
- Send forth your Spirit O Lord by Christopher Walker
- The Cry of the Poor by John Foley
- God’s Spirit is in my Heart