THE GOOD NEWS IS SALVIFIC

          SUNDAY REFLECTION FOR ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR C 27TH January 2019

 

Rdgs: 1st: Neh 8:2-6.8-10; 2nd: I Cor 12:12-14.27; Gos: Lk 1:1-4.4:14-21

 

In the first reading of today we have here an account of a solemn religious assembly after the exilic experience, and the good work that was done in that assembly, to the honour of God and the edification of the Church. It was on that day that the altar was set up, and they began to offer their burnt-offerings after their return out of captivity, the religious exercises performed in this assembly were not ceremonial, but moral, praying and preaching. Ezra, as president of the assembly, was the people’s mouth to God. The Word of God as more desirable than fine gold appears in the first reading. It is the people who because of the love for the word urged Ezra to read the Law (v.1). They were very attentive, notwithstanding the long hours this took. From critical analysis, Ezra did not force the law upon them, they desire to hear and understand it. While the people are grieved over the reading, possibly because it revealed their faithlessness and neglect for the word, there was a great sense of joy after hearing it.

The way in which the law is relevant and applicable to the people in the time of Ezra is part of the joy to be found in it. Similar joy is found in the psalmist’s exquisite words of praise for the law in the psalms and in the amazement of the people who heard Jesus proclamation in the gospel (Luke 4:22). Today’s message is all about the life giving, liberating, renewing, releasing, freeing, sight-giving nature of God’s Word, the joy that it can engender and the joy of wanting to hear and do it. The salvific nature of God’s words came to fulfillment in Jesus, the Emmanuel, and the Word Made Flesh.

Jesus’ preaching today ended with “today” but analytically starts with the word “Today”. Today the Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Today I bring good news to the poor. Today I proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. Today I let the oppressed go free to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. This is one of the shortest sermons. The people of Israel have waited for centuries for the fulfillment of promises that God made throughout their history, beginning with the fall of Adam (Gen 3:15), Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), Isaiah 7:15 etc. now Jesus declares that the wait is over, the promises are now fulfilled, the long awaited messiah is here, the incarnate word of God that brings joy is with us. This is indeed good news. These verses announce the nature of Jesus’ ministry. His preaching in Luke has a different emphasis than in Mark, where he says, “the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent and believe in the Good news” (Mark 1; 15). In Luke’s version, Jesus does not call people to repentance but later in the gospel (Luke 5:32, 13:3,5; 15:7). Luke’s version was more of liberation; one can also say liberating sinners from the captivity of sin.

The preaching of Jesus today serves as his mission statement, what his mission is, and what he has come to achieve or fulfill. It was his guiding beacon. It is simply why he came; given further impetus by his comment at the end of the chapter, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to other cities also. For this reason I have been sent (Luke 4:43).here Jesus added that his advent was not for the Jews only but for the gentiles. This is further elucidated with the significance of his Galilean origin. It is worthy to note that Jesus did not grow up in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life and religious practice but in Galilee, the hinterlands, a place where many gentiles live. And he carried out the major portion of his ministry in Galilee pointer to his ministry.

In his first premise Jesus emphasizes that his anointing and empowerment come from the Holy Spirit. It is a reminder that everything about Jesus is centered on the Holy Spirit. Luke emphasized that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) and Zechariah filled with the Holy spirit prophesied of Jesus that God ‘has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:69) which was also a certification of Jesus’ mission statement. Luke also elucidated that that Holy Spirit rested on Simeon as he held the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God for allowing him to see God’s salvation (Luke 2:27-30) and that the Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22). Jesus was anointed at his baptism where the Spirit descended upon him like a dove and the voice from heaven confirmed him as the beloved son of God. (Luke 3:22), and today he deems it pertinent to remind us again that Jesus’ ministry is Spirit empowered.

Today Jesus identifies himself as the anointed one of God; a further epiphany of his messianic import and objectives by further declaring his mission, which is to proclaim the Good news of the reign of God, a God of Love and compassion for the poor, sinners and oppressed. Jesus read from the book of Isaiah 61, which proclaims that the messiah will bring relief to the disenfranchised. This prophecy was made when the Israelites lived in slavery and misery in exile. So, by using these same words as the basis of his ministry and mission, Christ announced His reign of peace, justice, freedom and love to all those suffering from all kinds of oppressions and injustice.

Like Nehemiah in our first reading, Christ proclaims the good news of the new era to all of us. It is important to note that this good news is not directed only to the materially poor, but to all: “the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Mt 5:3).

 

This mission statement holds promise not only for the poor, but also for all Jewish people. At that time Roman soldiers are garrisoned in their land to insure that Roman law is honored and Roman taxes are collected. The Jewish people are not in a position to chart their own course or to determine their own destiny. With regard to political power, the nation is poor, captive, and oppressed. They desperately need the salvation that Jesus brings. The good news promises to liberate them from this slavery.  The Good News also liberates us from Slavery; Slavery that results from personal sins and mistakes in life, which makes us, spiritually blind and weak. This cripples our spiritual life, and hardens our hearts against God and all that is good. This affects us both spiritually and physically. Only Christ can liberate us from this slavery. We can achieve this liberation by accepting the good news, and by seeking reconciliation with Christ and ourselves. The other type of slavery is that which is imposed on us by others or society. These include structural, economic, and social injustices that do not allow us live a fulfilled life in this world, even when we make all the necessary efforts.

It is also the Church’s mission to speak for the poor. The gospel was addressed to the lovers of God (Theophillus) to further the express the mission of the Church (lovers and members of the body of Christ); which involve bringing good news, proclaiming freedom and liberation from sin and death, restoration, and freeing the oppressed. Jesus calls his Church to love the unlovely and to serve the undeserving. Good News is a message that brings joy, it is liberty to captives , freedom from all that binds us including sin, it is healing to the sick , the experience of wholeness; it is the promise of the favourable year (kairos) , the time of Grace.  So Good News is not a set of information.  It is an experience! Again, the Good News is not just an experience in the abstract.  It is the possibility to experience God in the person of Jesus.  The Good News is salvific. Now is the time to embrace the Good News, to embrace Jesus, the Word made flesh.

Peace be with you