Homily: 3 February: 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Sunday 3 February 2019

Archbishop Peter A Comensoli

The story of Jesus escape from the angry mob in today’s gospel used to puzzle me. How could he have simply walked away through a crowd supposedly hell-bent on trowing him over a cliff? This remained a puzzle until someone pointed out to me that glass widows didn’t exist in Jesus’ time. Glass windows, you might ask? What’s that got to do with things? To explain, we need to recall last Sunday’s gospel.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus began his public ministry by going into the synagogue at Nazareth, his home town, on the Sabbath and reading to the gather listeners that famous passage from the Book of Isaiah which began: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has sent me to bring good news to the poor.” These are the words which, in today’s gospel, we are told won the approval of those in the synagogue.

But as we also know, those same people very quickly changed their minds about Jesus once he began to challenge their own sense of ownership over those words. They were not the ones towards which this Good News was being directed. So they took him outside to kill him.

Here’s where the lack of glass windows places a decisive role in bringing Jesus’ news of salvation to those to whom it would apply. No glass in the windows of the Synagogue at Nazareth meant that there were simply holes in the walls, to let the air in and sound out. On that fateful day that inaugurated Jesus public ministry, there were more than those inside the synagogue who heard what Jesus had to say.  

In the time of Jesus, synagogues were not like our churches or the synagogues of today. Only ritually clean males got to go into the building for the Sabbath worship. Women, the physically disabled, the mentally ill, public sinners, the ritually unclean were exclude from coming inside the space for worship, so they would gather around the building to catch what was going on inside. The upshot of all this is that there were probably many more people outside the synagogue at Nazareth on that day than inside.

We might imagine, therefore, Jesus looking out through the unglazed windows as he claimed the words of Isaiah as his own. For that is where the poor were located. Today we might use words like marginalised or excluded or those living on the peripheries. The labels might change, but the reality remains. It was those people who had been left outside who were the ones to whom Jesus was directing his words. The sound of his voice drifted out towards them, and suddenly they were learning that it was God’s intention to welcome them inside.

So, when the insiders got Jesus outside the synagogue, they were met by a different crowd – God’s newly chosen ones – and it was them who allowed Jesus to walk away unscathed. Because there were no glassed-in windows at the synagogue at Nazareth, the Good News of Jesus Christ made it to the poor.

When Jesus says to us today: I have come to bring good news to the poor, perhaps it would we wise for us to look to see who is outside our windows.



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