Homily for the 3rd Sunday of the Year (C)

22 – 23 January 2022

As human beings, a critical part of our behaviour and nature is to try to make sense of one’s experience. This has enabled human beings to survive and ultimately to thrive in a world wherein humanity has found many threats to its survival, from tiny bacteria to large bears.

The person, life and ministry of Jesus was a perplexing experiencing for those who encountered him. St Luke, right at the start of his gospel, explains his intention: by writing an ordered account of the information and evidence pertaining to Jesus, based on eyewitness accounts, he wishes to assist read- ers and hearers of the Gospel to understand who Jesus is, so as to be able to trust the teaching they have received from the Apostles.

Who would some of these eyewitnesses have been? Luke was a firm disciple of St Paul and would probably have met with many of the original Apostles. Furthermore, the intimate details connected to the life of Mary indicated that in all likelihood he would have had contact with Mary.

St Luke goes to great lengths to convince his audience that Jesus is the messiah, the anointed one, whom the Old Testament foretold would come to liberate God’s people. In Today’s Gospel Jesus is in Nazareth where he grew up – he is in the synagogue, where he reads from the Prophet Isaiah:

“the spirit of the lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to cap- tives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favourable year of the lord.”

Jesus then boldly proclaims: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!”

To claim to be the fulfilment of an Old Testament prophesy does not necessarily mean that it is true. What evidence is there that what Jesus claims is in fact true? Many Scripture scholars have done in-depth research, with some find- ing over 500 Old Testament references that are fulfilled by Jesus. One scholar, J. Barton Payne, has found as many as 574 verses in the Old Testament that somehow point to or describe or reference the coming Messiah. Alfred Edersheim found 456 Old Testament verses referring to the Messiah or His times. Conservatively, Jesus fulfilled at least 300 prophecies in His earthly ministry.

Jesus is the only religious figure whose life was foretold and predicted. This went beyond the scriptures of Israel, as seen in the Pagan kings, the Wise Men, knowing of the birth of the messiah through their own faith and culture. For those living at the time of Jesus, this evidence that Jesus was the one who fulfilled the ancient prophesies was

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critical to accepting Him as the Promised One. Let us look at a few of these prophesies:

In Genesis 12, God promised Abraham the whole world would be blessed through him. Jesus, descended from Abraham, is that blessing. God promised Abraham He would establish an everlasting covenant with Isaac’s off- spring. Jesus is that offspring – Gen 17 fulfilled at the Last Supper. Jacob prophesied – Gen 49 – that Judah would rule over his brothers. Jesus the king is from the tribe of Judah. Isaiah predicts the Suffering Servant of God, The Suffering Servant is like a lamb that does not defend itself. Although Jesus spoke during His trials, He never offered a defence. In Is 53, it states hhe Suffering Servant will die with the wicked. Jesus died with the two thieves. The Suf- fering Servant will be buried in the grave of a rich man. Jesus was buried in the grave of Joseph of Arimathea. The Suffering Servant will intercede for His abusers. Jesus asked God to forgive those who crucified Him. The prophet Hosea says God will call His “child” from Egypt. Jesus returned from Egypt when He was young. Zecharia foretold that Israel’s king will ride a donkey. Jesus came into Jerusalem riding a donkey.

The Gospels relate how Jesus proclaimed the Good News of salvation to vast multitudes, many of whom were too poor to have food and so he fed them. He released those bound by sin, by illness and by demons. He restored sight to the blind, he made the mite speak and enabled the deaf to hear. Indeed, Jesus in him ministry proved from his actions that He was the fulfilment of what was prophesized by Isaiah hundreds of years before.

“the spirit of the lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the lord.”

Why is this fact that Jesus is the fulfilment of all these prophesies important for you and me today? While the teachings of God are important, as recognised in today’s 1st reading, the Christian faith is that Jesus is not only the bringer of a great teaching but that he is a living saviour, a messiah who gives us the power today to live his teaching faithfully.

May our prayer be that Jesus opens our eyes to those areas in our lives that are mired in sin, that He may open our ears and heal our muteness so that we too may take his message to all ends of the Earth. In times of doubt and op- pression may Jesus release you and me from our captivity and may we experience that we are acceptable to God, and that despite our circumstances, Jesus is our living and life-giving saviour who is with us in this life and will guide us through the struggles of life to the eternal joys of heaven.