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 (Lk 4:18-19).
This message of universal healing for all of humanity, restoration, and reconciliation for all people would be the mission of Jesus. He presents to his hometown folk the message that he would be the vehicle to bring the love and redemptive work of his Father to all the nations, to invite all people to be aware of the reality present to them: that God his Father is inviting all into communion and relationship. The poor mentioned were not just in reference to those experiencing material poverty, but also 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’ teaching, healing, and restorative power? What is keeping us on the peripheries, apart from communion and fellowship? What sins and addiction keep us bound, what fears and anxieties keep us oppressed? What is keeping us blind to the reality that God is in our midst and seeking a deeper relationship with us? Today we hear or read again Jesus’ words proclaimed in the Gospel. Jesus invites us to be healed and to align ourselves with his will and ministry of loving service to others.
Today is January 6. One year ago today, hundreds of people stormed the Capitol, which reveals to us that we still need to hear the same words that Jesus spoke to the people of his own hometown. Are we willing to listen? Will we hold on to our biases and prejudices, to our tribe, our nation, our political party at the cost of losing our integrity, reason, and dignity? Or can this be an opportunity to see our darkness on full display? Will these events help us to be more open to the gift of our uniqueness as individuals, the richness of our human diversity while at the same time recognizing that we truly are all interconnected? Have we had enough division and polarization?
The Psalmist stated that, “From fraud and violence he will redeem them” (Psalm 72:14) and John wrote, “whoever does not love a brother [or sister] whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). With these words from today’s readings we can begin again. We can examine our consciences, turn to God with a contrite, sorrowful heart for what we have done and what we have failed to do.
As we do so, may we experience the healing hands of Jesus on our bowed heads and the warmth of his forgiveness and love pouring through us as we are purged from our sin and pride. Then, in recognition of how much suffering and pain is present in our country and world, we can open our hearts and minds to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit so as to resist giving in to hate and instead choosing love, refusing to foment division and instead offer the invitation of healing and reconciliation, see those we disagree with not as other or enemies but as brothers and sisters. In so doing, we can commit to bringing about an “acceptable year of the Lord” in 2022 (Lk 4:19).