January 16th was Salvatorian Sunday, when we kicked off our annual collection at Pius for the religious community that staffs our parish. If you have not yet contributed, you can do so online or using an envelope that you can get in church or the parish office. I thank you for supporting my community, especially our formation of new members.
We are in cycle C of Sunday readings, the year of Luke, and the first lines of our Gospel today are from the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, in which he gives his credentials and explains his goal of presenting the things that happened with Jesus “in an orderly sequence.” He addresses “Theophilus,” which means “lover of God,” as he does in the other book he wrote, “the Acts of the Apostles.”
After this introduction, our reading skips over the infant narratives, John the Baptist, the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus’ temptation in the desert, picking up with Jesus’ return to his home town. It is a Sabbath and Jesus, as every good Jew, went to the synagogue, where He is invited to pick a scripture to read and comment on.
This is appropriate for our introduction to Luke’s Gospel, because it is Jesus’ first “public appearance” and Luke is telling us, through the scripture passage Jesus chooses, what Jesus’ ministry will be like: it is an overview of what is to come.
First, we are assured that Jesus is anointed and is operating under the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord. His basic mission is to bring “glad tidings” or “good news” TO THE POOR. Jesus has come to help those in need, whether that need be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Second, specifics are given: liberty for captives, sight to the blind, and freedom for the oppressed. Finally, we are told He is to “proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” This is a reference to the jubilee year, which occurred every 50 years, in which debts were forgiven and land returned to those who had lost it. In other words, Christ came to set us free from the debt of our sins. After He reads the scripture text, Jesus’ gives the shortest homily ever: Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing; in other words, Jesus is claiming this passage as His mission statement.
What does this mean for us? It tells us that Christ has freed us from our sins and failings: we are saved. However, we have to accept this salvation and work to better ourselves. What emotion or longing holds me captive? Jesus wants to set me free. What spiritual blindness do I have? Jesus wants to help me see. What is oppressing me? Jesus wants to set me free.
The Lord does not expect us to be perfect, but He does want us to be trying to improve. What can the Lord help me with today?
Church sign of the week: Jesus is a friend who knows all your faults and still loves you anyway.