(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
Although we listen each week to the Word of God, this Sunday we take time to celebrate the Word in a particular way. We can consider what role the Word of God plays in our lives.
The Gospel reading for this Sunday comes from two chapters of St. Luke's Gospel—the beginning of Chapter One, and the middle of Chapter Four.
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,
I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth
St. Luke begins writing the Gospel by talking about his decision to write. He knows that others have already written about "the events that have been fulfilled among us," but he has discerned that he needs to write, too. We wonder why. It is a big work to record what others have witnessed an orderly account. Something—or someone—compels him to write. He has something that needs to be said.
We wonder if, as he begins to write, St. Luke realizes that each word he chooses will be read, studied, and treasured by millions of people all over the world, in a multitude of languages, for thousands of years.
St. Luke addresses his big work to a person called Theophilus. Scripture scholars suspect that Theophilus is a wealthy Greek man who pays St. Luke to write this account of Jesus for him. We do not know for sure. But the name Theophilus itself is interesting—it means, "Lover of God." Jesus loves God; he could be called Theophilus. We love God, too. Perhaps, as he begins to write, St. Luke does realize that he writes for us.
The reading for this Sunday quickly turns to the fourth Chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke, after Jesus has been baptized and has spent 40 days in the desert:
Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, Jesus went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom.
St. Luke gives us a picture of Jesus' life filled with the Holy Spirit. He regularly attends the synagogue. Synagogues are holy places where Jewish people come together to listen and discuss the Word of God. The Word of God is the gift God gives to the Jewish people to treasure. Because they have kept it sacred, it is treasure for us all.
He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.
It is fitting that, on the Sunday of the Word of God, we hear about Jesus reading from the Word.
He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
There are 66 chapters in the book of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus chooses these words. Why?
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," Jesus proclaims. In this chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah, it is not clear who is speaking. Is Isaiah referring to himself, or is he hearing words spoken by someone else? It is a mystery.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
The speaker in this passage has been anointed with a mission. The speaker has been sent by God to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour—a new age, a full and beautiful time. To proclaim release, to proclaim sight, to proclaim freedom, to proclaim good news. The one who has been anointed has been sent to proclaim all these things. This person has a lot to say.
Then Jesus began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Fulfilled? What does Jesus mean? Has he solved the mystery? Is he the speaker of the words in the book of the prophet Isaiah? Is he beginning to say all the things he has been sent to proclaim?
Jesus knows that he is filled with the Holy Spirit. He does not need to proclaim it; it is so. The Spirit of the Lord is upon him.
Jesus does not just proclaim release to those held captive by sin; he forgives.
He does not just proclaim recovery of sight to the blind; he heals.
Jesus does not just proclaim freedom; he leads the way.
What Jesus says, Jesus does.
He fulfills the words with action.
No wonder we say that Jesus is the Word of God.
We notice that the words of scripture say that he has been anointed to proclaim and to do. We are anointed, too, at our Baptism, and again at Confirmation. Our head is slathered with oil filled with the Holy Spirit. We have to wonder, as Theophilus, as those who love God, have we been anointed to proclaim and to do, too? If this is true, we will need the Word of God to lead the way.