3rd Sunday Year C - Homily 5

Homily 5 - 2019

In today’s Gospel passage, Luke had finally wound up his introductory information about Jesus. He had used his stories of Jesus’ early life as a child to tell his readers who Jesus is, and to alert us to what to expect in the adult Jesus. He had shown us Jesus choosing deliberately to accept his solidarity with sin-scarred humanity by undergoing John’s baptism of repentance. He had told us of Jesus’ remarkable spiritual experience that he had while praying some time after his baptism, when he saw the heavens torn apart, as it were, the Spirit descending on him, and heard the voice of God clearly stating, “You are my son, my beloved; in you I delight.” Following the lead given in Mark’s Gospel, Luke had then, in his wonderfully graphic style, illustrated the radical temptations that Jesus experienced, perhaps early on, as he endeavoured to come to terms with the Father’s revelation to him, and certainly would undergo later as his mission moved inexorably towards crucifixion.

The stage had been set and Luke finally introduced his readers to Jesus’ public engagement with his countrymen one day, at Nazareth, in the synagogue. From the rich insights of the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus comments on one small passage taken from the prophecies of Isaiah.. “The spirit of the Lord … has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free and to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour”. Perhaps even more remarkably, he has Jesus declare to his listeners, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen”.

Is Jesus saying the same thing, “today”, to me and you, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen”? Is he offering me, you, today “new sight”, the chance to see things differently, to see everything differently? Is he telling me, you, that, if I open my eyes, I might really see this messed-up world of real people as a world “favoured”, even loved, by God? that I might even see traces of God’s presence in everything that happens, in everything that is real? Is Jesus still sent by the Spirit to tell me this: that despite the sin of the world, life is still “good news”? Is Jesus suggesting that he wants to set me “free”, today, to “proclaim liberty” to me – set me free from my fears, my paralysis, my blindness, my denials?

There is another way to make sense of today’s Gospel passage – not so much an alternative as an additional way. According to John’s Gospel, after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the gathered disciples, whoever they were and however many they were, and said, “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you out”. He then breathed into them and said, “Receive the holy Spirit”. So the text of Isaiah that Jesus saw as applying to himself, we might hear addressed to us, to each of us, “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me… He has sent me to bring 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”.

Being a Catholic, then, is not so much question of sitting around passively and receiving sacraments, etc.. It is more question of knowing, from experience, the favour and graciousness of God – and moving into action from there: sharing God’s bias for the poor, not just barracking for them but standing with them and for them in their struggles for justice and greater equity; urging ourselves and others, particularly our politicians, to see beyond cultural blinkers and to be in touch really with life as it is; seeing justice, not as punishment, but reconciliation, where both victims and offenders are helped to grow, to grow up, to mature.

We have to change – or we die out. Listening carefully to Jesus could be a good start.