The scene in today’s Gospel is not quite as spectacular as the one in the first reading, but in a sense it is much more dramatic when it is read from our perspective. Jesus is laying down a claim to be the sign of the messianic age.
Though later he would on occasion dodge the question of whether he was the messiah because the role of that person was so badly misunderstood (as a military and political leader), he made clear at the beginning of his ministry that the messianic age, properly understood as a new age of creation, was also beginning.
The people in the synagogue must have been thunderstruck. They knew Jesus and liked him, but how could anyone claim to be fulfilling personally the prophecy of Isaiah?
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Once there was a truly great high school basketball team that everyone said would win the city championship without even trying. So they swept through the season without even trying. Why work hard to beat a time that was no big deal. That year there were no big deal teams in the whole city, except our friends. So they won all their games by fifteen points or more and were hailed as the best ever. That came the championship match against a team they’d already beaten twice. However, the other team was all pumped up, the refs were manifestly unfair, and crowd was for the other team. The coach, who had warned them all season about being flat on the wrong day, screamed at them to know avail.
Then at the beginning of the second half he screamed at the refs for a blatantly unfair call. The refs threw him out and then the assistant coach who screamed and the refs through him out too. So the only adult on the bench was the second assistant who was just out of college and who had played on the team a couple of years ago (and wasn’t truly great) took over. He called time out and said, look, guys, we may be down by ten but we can beat these clumsy oaf and I’m going to tell you how. They’re rotten ball handlers. We’ll put on a full course press and steal the ball from them every time they try to bring it down.
What does he know a couple of guys said as they returned to the court?
Who does he think he is?
But they put on the press and caught up almost at once and were ten points ahead when the final quarter started. We’ve got them on the road, guys, the acting coach said, keep up the press. But the guys were fed up with this punks enthusiasm and decided to ease up. What happened. The score was tied with only three minutes left and they were five points down with two minutes left. Let’s do the press, someone said. Only by now they were too tired. So they lost by ten points. Moral: You take your prophets wherever you can find them.
1 O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all
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