3rd Sunday Year C - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2007

Today’s Gospel has two separate introductions. In the first, Luke introduces his Gospel as a whole. In the second, he introduces, and sums up, Jesus’ public ministry; and he does it, by having Jesus say of himself, in the synagogue at Nazareth: (God’s Spirit)  has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

That doesn’t sound very religious.

If a Muslim asked us what does being a Catholic mean, would we spontaneously answer: to be a brother or sister of Jesus, working with him to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free...?

What makes it religious is the “Why”. Why did Jesus do it? His answer was clear: The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, because he has anointed me. He has sent me ... Jesus brought good news to the poor, etc. because he believed he was sent by God to do it. Why did he accept that mission from God? Because the Spirit of the Lord had anointed him.

What does that mean – anointed by God’s Spirit? ... anointed... It means, sort of, “saturated” in a way that feels good, refreshes, and strengthens. Jesus felt himself saturated in, overwhelmed by, shot through with, the Spirit of God - and caught up into the throbbing heart of God, who is love.

At his Baptism, when he was anointed by the Spirit, Jesus knew himself as God’s beloved; he knew at the same time that God was love.  Caught up into the throbbing heart of God, who is love - with God, enlightened by God, empowered by God - he knew himself sent to reach out in love to the rest of humanity, equally loved by God.

Not to humanity, as an abstraction, but to the people he encountered. He was sent to love these people, most of whom were poor, downtrodden, and blind to their own dignity; as well as to those who weren’t poor or downtrodden, and were often the ones responsible for the others being poor and downtrodden. He didn’t love them abstractly, but he sought to humanise them practically, by his love, his care, his unmasking and challenging the structures that labelled,  discounted, and marginalised them.

Was that religious? Actually, many of the religious leaders thought that what he was doing was undermining religion. And, as we’ll see in next week’s Gospel, many of his own towns people were outraged by what he said and did, and tried to kill him. Emotions ran deep.

Following the prophet Micah, Jesus insisted on revealing what he believed was the heart of God: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. Perhaps God is not very religious! or, perhaps people can get religion wrong.

You are already living that mission of Jesus in your various ways: Your work, for many, can be a service for others; Parents constantly giving further insight to your children, and, sometimes, vice versa; Voluntary work, making the community more person-friendly. Others shaping society according to the vision of Christ through membership of political parties, or influencing public opinion in more general ways. The parish has financially supported the Mesa Partida, of Fr Mick McKinnon,or the on-going work of human development and disaster relief through Caritas Australia. The task goes on – perhaps not spectacular, but real.

What does it mean to be a Catholic?