Luke, chapter 4 verses 14 to 21.
Jesus, full of hope, returned to the town where he had spent his childhood.
In the small country synagogue he is invited to read the lesson. As the familiar words of the great teacher Isaiah fill the room, the congregation, mostly old friends and neighbours, nod with pride and pleasure. He reads with clarity and conviction. He has turned out well and is in fact rumoured to be a holy man. They know the words by heart. The fact is they expect nothing new... but, they are impressed, perhaps even moved, by the enthusiasm of Joseph's son and the more experienced among them knew that, in time, he would settle down. Like all young preachers, he probably thought that he was the Messiah!
Just as they knew the words of Isaiah before Jesus voiced them, so too, most of you already know how this scene plays itself out... Jesus declares himself to be the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy!
Such blasphemy! This arrogant carpenter whom they all know really believes he is the Messiah! They waste no time in showing him the door.
Let's back up a little. Let's fill those now empty seats in the synagogue. What did Jesus say? He said that the words of Isaiah were now fulfilled in our presence. He said that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him and that he was bringing good news to the poor, release to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed.
What is our reaction? Shall we too show him the door? Perhaps not, but some voices can be heard saying, "What about me? ...I am not poor, I am not a captive, exiled or oppressed... I am not blind... Has God no favour for me?"
And now lets fast-forward and hear St. Paul as he tells us... "You are the Body of Christ," which means that you are called upon to be something that will always be greater than yourself. In other words, the link between me and the poor, the imprisoned, the oppressed and the blind of this world is both intimate and permanent. We are all sons and daughters of the same Father. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
For the Christian there can be no such person as a stranger. And what does that mean in every-day language? It means that in our society, which thrives on debt, there are times when we must share and demand nothing in return. It means that those who are prisoners of failure, inadequacy, illness and incapacity must receive our unconditional respect, time and support. It means that those who have been blinded by error and ignorance must be witnessed to, informed and prayed for. It means that those oppressed by unjust wages, unfair demands, racism and bigotry recognize in us not agents of oppression but champions and allies.
This, in a non-exclusive yet still particular way, is God's gift, His favour to the relatively rich and talented, to the free, the respected, the supported, and the appreciated. It is the gift of being His presence to others and of finding Him in them.