He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).
Jesus sat down after speaking these words to his hometown congregation in Nazareth who had just heard him read the passage from 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. 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 were 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 each one of us today. 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 group, racial or ethnic makeup, nation, or 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 and accepted the invitation of his love and relationship. She often 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 had the opportunity to do twice in the final month prior to her death. 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 and love us forever and ever.
Life is too short to allow our pride to get in the way. Examining our conscience and coming to Jesus with a contrite, sorrowful heart for what we have done and what we have failed to do is a healing practice. As we do so today, may we experience his healing hands on our bowed heads and the warmth of his love pouring through us and purging us of our sin and pride. JoAnn has been at her new address for what will be two years this Thursday, September 2. May she intercede for us such that we are open to the guidance of Jesus so as to participate with him in bringing the invitation of healing, reconciliation, and love to others, that we may bring about an “acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:19).
Photo: Swan ride together at Echo Park in Los Angeles.