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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

One of the themes of today’s gospel and Old Testament reading is “return”. In about 536 BC Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem. Nehemiah, a Jew who had been an important official at the Persian court, was sent by Artaxerxes to be governor of Judah. He found that many of the Israelites who had remained had married foreign wives and were not observing the Law. This is the context of today’s reading where the priest Ezra recommitted the people to observance of the Law, and enforced separation from those who had abandoned it. He encouraged feasting and rejoicing in celebration.

In the gospel Jesus was returning to the village where he had been brought up. He read the prophecy of Isaiah, written when the Jews has returned home and were trying to rebuild their country. For centuries Israel had longed for its Messiah and here he was reading the words that concerned himself. There should have been great rejoicing; but all of the synoptic gospels record that Jesus met with begrudgery: in fact, Luke recounts that his people tried to kill him (Luke 4:28-30).

How often do we fail to see the Lord working in our lives? Perhaps it is because God is the "God of surprises" (Gerard Hughes SJ) and works in ways we do not always understand.