He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).
Jesus, who had just sat down, spoke these words to his hometown congregation in Nazareth who had just heard him read the passage from the writings of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus proclaimed that he was the one to whom Isaiah was talking about. Luke chose to place this event as the starting point of Jesus’ public ministry, of bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to the captives, recovering sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming a year acceptable to the Lord (cf. Lk 4:18-19).
This is a message of universal healing for all of humanity, that restoration and reconciliation would come and Jesus would be the vehicle to bring all the nations, all people, back into communion and relationship with his Father. The poor mentioned were not just in reference to those experiencing material poverty, but to those finding themselves on the margins of society, the outcasts, those on the peripheries. The captives were not only those imprisoned for debts or crimes but those bound in the chains of their own sin and addiction. The blind was not only those who could not physically see but those who experienced the spiritual blindness of pride and arrogance. The oppressed were not just those under the iron fist of totalitarian and dictatorial regimes, but those pressed down through their own self imposed anxieties and fears.
In what ways are we in need of Jesus’ healing and restorative power? What is keeping us on the peripheries, apart from communion and fellowship? What sins and addictions keep us bound, what fears and anxieties keep us oppressed? Jesus invites us in today’s Gospel to be healed and to align ourselves with his will and ministry of loving service to others. The same words he spoke to his own hometown he is speaking to us. Will we hold on to our biases and prejudices and run Jesus out from our midst to hurl him over a cliff because he is not only offering his healing hand to us, but also to others outside our tribe, our nation, our political party? Or will we come to Jesus, kneel before him, acknowledge our need for his healing and make him the Lord of our life?
JoAnn recognized her need for Jesus in her life and she accepted the invitation of his love and relationship. She often said that she found rote prayers hard to do. She was much more comfortable speaking with Jesus as she spoke with our kids and me. JoAnn was also willing to admit her mistakes and confess her sins, which she was blessed to have the opportunity to do as God brought Fr. Leandro to us so she could access the healing graces of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick about a month ago and again this past Saturday. JoAnn often told us as her condition declined further that her death would not be an end, but just a change of address and that she would be close to us, with us, and that she would love us forever and ever.
Let us take some time today to examine our conscience. Then come to Jesus with a contrite, sorrowful heart for what we have done and what we have failed to do. May we feel his healing hands on our bowed heads and the warmth of his love pouring through us to purge us of our sin and pride and heal us from that which keeps us bound. Very soon JoAnn will be with Jesus in his heavenly realm and then will be able to intercede for us such that he may guide us as he guided her on how and where we can participate with him in bringing healing and reconciliation to others in our midst, to bring about an “acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:19).
One ministry we have found to help us bring about an acceptable year is Cross Catholic Outreach hosted at our parish of St Peter bagging food for those in dire need.