‘Start as you mean to go on’ is a very good proverb and Jesus certainly does this in our Gospel reading today. He stands up in the synagogue of Nazareth and issues a manifesto; he proclaims a statement of intent for the rest of his public ministry.
And this manifesto is not something made up by himself; it consists of the words of one of the most revered of all the prophets, Isaiah.
Now that the liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas are over we begin what is prosaically called Ordinary Time. This year is, of course, the year of Luke’s Gospel. But for reasons that might become clear we begin with the story of the first miracle as recorded in the Gospel of John.
It can be said that the Public Ministry of Jesus began with his Baptism at the hands of John the Baptist in the River Jordan. In common with the other Synoptic Gospels St Luke gives us a very short account of this significant event; but, brief though it is, he includes all the essentials
The word Epiphany is Greek and it literally means ‘manifestation’. In the liturgy a distinction had gradually come to be drawn between the actual birth of Christ and the occasion on which his coming was made known to the world. The date chosen for the Epiphany was the 6th January which appropriately coincided with the Jewish Feast of Lights.
Today in our Gospel reading we hear a lovely story from the hidden life of Jesus as a boy. It is about his visit to Jerusalem when he was twelve years old, how he got lost on the return journey and how his parents eventually found him discussing the scriptures with the doctors in the Temple.
We are now in the final phase of the Advent season, the immediate preparation for the feast of Christmas. In the Gospel reading we are presented with the account of the visit of Mary to Elizabeth. Superficially there is no significant action; Mary simply visits her cousin and then goes home. What Luke gives us is the conversation between the two women and this is very revealing.
Today is commonly called Gaudete Sunday; that word Gaudete means rejoice and joy is the principal theme of the first two readings. We don’t hear much from the Prophet Zephaniah in the Lectionary but this passage is an interesting one; it speaks about the coming of the Messiah and it tells us that day will be a day of rejoicing not just for the whole people but for the Lord himself. He even pictures the Messiah dancing with joy on that great day.
Although we would expect the liturgy at this time of the year to be pointing towards the birth of Christ and so to the city of Bethlehem it actually points us not to Bethlehem but to Jerusalem.
We finished the liturgical year last Sunday with the Feast of Christ the King. Today we begin the new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent and we will be guided through it with the help of St Luke the Evangelist.
I once heard a story about a man who travelled to London to attend an interview for an important post in the security services. When he arrived at the appointed place he found five other applicants in the waiting room, all discussing their prospects. There was no secretary on duty. A sign on the wall stated that applicants were to knock and enter the interview room at fifteen-minute intervals, beginning at eleven o'clock. They were to leave the interview room by another door, so that the nature of the questioning could be kept secret.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket