The 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Luke 1:1-4 4:14-21
Jesus stood up to read from the prophet Isaiah. It was a passage about the coming Messiah. Here he is announcing himself as the Messiah as he applies the words to himself “the spirit of the Lord has been given to me”. What follows is what we might call a “mission statement” of his kingdom – bringing good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind etc. Jesus is the servant king. We are called to be the same. In our giving and receiving as one Body, we enable each other to experience enrichment (overcoming poverty), vision (banishing our blindness), and freedom (removing oppression).
This is the only Gospel with a Prologue (verses 1-4), where Luke starts with a statement of what he is about. He also dedicates the Acts of the Apostles to the same Theophilus (= “Beloved of God”), who may stand for all Christians or who may well have been a Roman citizen.
I sit in the humble village synagogue of Nazareth, not anticipating that I am about to witness a turning-point in world history. Jesus, the sturdy young local craftsman, is home again, fresh from his baptism in the River Jordan, where he had been identified as the beloved Son of God. All our eyes are fixed on him as he rolls up the scroll and sits down. A brief claim to his divine identity leads to a statement of his mission for all time. The “good news” has rippled out further and further for the past 2000 years. How am I propagating it here and now?
A ‘year of favour’ was a season when God would ‘visit his people’ – God would come and overturn a situation where his people had been at the mercy of enemies. He would relieve the oppressed, set free the imprisoned, cure the disabled and those who had succumbed to illness. It would be a whole new age – God would lift is people out of their distress. Jesus tells his hearers that, with his own coming, God is visiting his people right now. And he’s visiting every single one of his people, from that day to this.
I must take personally what God says here. He says: ‘You are the one I choose today to bring good news to the poor and oppressed. The Holy Spirit is upon you. I am sending you!’ Jesus saw these statements as giving him his identity. Do they give me mine?