Drawing inspiration and insight from Scripture
Today is the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, and it is also the feast of St. Francis de Sales. One of his many contributions to the Church is in the area of spiritual direction, encouraging all people, especially women and the laity, to devote time to prayer and biblical study. Today’s Gospel is an example of how to draw inspiration and insight from Scripture.
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk 4:21)
Do you pray with Scripture?
How can you find new ways of studying and meditating on Scripture?
What do you do to help people who are most in need?
The beginning of the Gospel comes from Luke 1, and the evangelist shares that he is using source materials and weaving together traditions to offer an account of the “events that have been fulfilled among us.” The second part of today’s Gospel is from Luke 4, and it describes Jesus praying and reflecting on prophetic traditions.
Jesus teaches in a synagogue, reading portions of Isaiah 58 and 61. Drawing on prophecies from over 500 years earlier, Jesus reads them in light of his life and ministry. The Isaiah prophecies describe the divine spirit coming upon someone, and Jesus draws inspiration and meaning from this prophecy, interpreting it as referring to himself, also filled with the power of the Spirit.
Isaiah highlights a figure who will bring good news to the poor, proclaim release of the imprisoned, give sight to the blind, liberate the oppressed and announce a year of the Lord’s favor, an expression associated with renewal and restoration. Upon reading the prophecy publicly, Jesus declares its fulfillment through his testimony and forthcoming ministry. In Luke, this is Jesus’ first public teaching since being filled with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. As he begins his ministry, Jesus reveals that he comes to serve people who are vulnerable and most in need.
Jesus demonstrates how to find meaning and relevance in Scripture, much in the same way as St. Francis de Sales’ guidance for spiritual direction. One of the practices St. Francis highlighted was lectio divina (sacred reading) which involves reading a passage slowly, finding a word or phrase that resonates with you; meditating on the word or phrase; praying to God, offering praise and asking for guidance on the text’s meanings and contemplating on what the text means in your life.
In today’s Gospel, we witness Jesus reading Scripture, relating it to his own experience and context, and using it to proclaim his purpose in the world, highlighting his commitment to ministering to those who are often marginalized in society. As we pray with this text, we can draw inspiration from how Jesus prays with Scripture and connects it to his life and work.
This article also appeared in print, under the headline “Sacred Reading,” in the January 2022, issue.