January 23, 2022
Luke 1: 1-4; 4:14-21
Nehemiah 8 describes the transformation process that God repeatedly calls us to our whole life long. On their return from exile in Babylon, the people find the Jerusalem temple in ruins, the city in disrepair. They are not welcomed by those residing there. Ezra, a priest-scribe, brought the law to the assembly of people of all ages. He proclaimed and interpreted the law, calling the people to a let the word of God into their lives. They listen attentively. They are humbled and brought to tears. Their hearts were being transformed. Nehemiah, a layman who totally dedicated his talents to the service of God and God’s people, calls them through their sorrow and repentance saying, “Do not be sad, and do not weep. Go and gather for a feast rich foods and sweet drink, and allot portions of the feast for those who had nothing prepared; because today is holy to our Lord. Do not be sad this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.” Their transformation opens them to service in open hearted sharing.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul teaches that we are all one body, we need each other. We were baptized into this body. No matter who we are, what we’ve done in the past, we belong to the community and are called to share our talents and gifts in building and maintaining the common good. When we and others seem to be weaker, our concern for each other is all the more necessary.
Our world is focusing on our differences in destructive ways. We act like we, the other person, group or even creation itself don’t belong to our family, community, local church or ministry, this country, this earth. We easily forget the faith reality that we belong to each other, to the common good, to all of creation. With each breath we inhale and exhale, we are gifted by of the Spirit of our Good and gracious God. Paul’s vision of being one body with many parts calls us to every deeper care-filled action for and with each other. In giving honor to one another, no matter our mistakes or our talents, we share each other’s sufferings and joys.
Luke 1 first addresses Theophilus, for whom Luke is writing this gospel to help him “realize the certainty of the teachings you have received”. Then our reading skips ahead to Luke 4 and the beginning of Jesus public ministry in Galilee. He returned there “in the power of the Spirit” after his stay in the desert.
He comes of Nazareth where he was raised and known by those who live there.
When he stood up to read, and was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, Jesus chose the passage
The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Jesus proclaims his mission and claims its fulfillment in himself. This is who Jesus is, and what he is called to do. This, too, is the heart of our mission in living the gospel.
We are sustained in this gospel mission through relationship with Christ. It is in the quiet, in our personal heart space that we receive the grace to relate to the times, places and people with whom we live this mission. Being grounded in Christ each day steadily and gently reveals our own imprisonments, our own attitudes that oppress others. We gradually hold anew our particular blindness, biases, dismissiveness or dislike of others. Grace gently invites us to let go of those oppressive attitudes. Day by day new pathways of liberating grace open our eyes and hearts. Faithful attention to these inner movements, brings surrender of inner structures and ways of seeing. As we practice the inner expression of Christ’s liberating mission, we more willingly surrender the fear underlying our desire to control our doing of this mission. Such surrender opens space in our hearts to willingly hold the suffering that evil creates. The liberating mission of Christ springs forth anew as we “start over again” each day. Inner surrender and transformation are fundamental to living Christ’s mission in today’s world. Transformation of hearts opens our eyes to outer world transformation, little by little. Gratitude and joy arise from deep within even as we participate in the difficult process of transforming the structures of evil. We trust the gift of the Spirit of God because we experience God’s anointing in our hearts, day by day.
It is true: “Rejoicing in our good God is and must continue to be our strength.”
Luke 1: 1-4; 4:14-21
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Gospel of the Lord.