Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Upon Me

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.  And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.  1 John 5:3-4

He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.  Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.  He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  Luke 4:17-21

When Every Night is Winter
Lord, you split no sky when you came among us,
And you rose not from the sea.
A star was seen in the heavens—but only by those who looked.
A choir of angels was heard—but only by those who listened.
No thunder, no storm, no cataclysm announced you,
Just the cry of a lowly refugee,
Turning to no one, turning to everyone,
Saying, "Will you let me in?"
And so, when every night is winter,
And every town is Bethlehem,
And every inn seems filled,
And on every ear those words are heard,
"Will you let me in?"
May we have eyes to see the star,
May we have ears to hear the choir,
May we have hearts that finally speak:
Yes, yes, by all means, come in.
Come in and stay. 

Politicians have platforms.  Philosophers have thesis.  Teachers have lesson plans.  Builders have blueprints.  Nothing worthwhile is created by accident.  Today’s reading foreshadows all that will come to be about the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.  Some calls today’s passage from the Gospel of Luke the Nazareth Manifesto.

Jesus ‘ministry is marked by His unity with the Spirit. After his confinement in the desert, Jesus returned home united with the Spirit.  “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.”  The Spirit, foretold since the days of Isaiah 800 years earlier, anticipated the way life will change under the teachings of Jesus.

He picks up where John the Baptist left off with the baton being passed on the concept of “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”   As Jesus establishes in his ministry, what emerges from the familiar are the original and innovative differences.   Today, what is revealed is the non-violent nature of this ministry of love.  What Jesus leaves off in the Nazareth Manifesto is a line from Isaiah which everyone knows.  The people who have been waiting generations for the appearance of the Lord, mark that waiting with the hope that the Messiah also will bring forth “a day of vindication by our God.”  But that is not what Jesus recites.  He sticks to the ministry of love outlined in Isaiah but does not promise that God will seek revenge on His enemies for the years of slavery and occupation which have marked Jewish history.

And this is not burdensome but keeping vengeance in our hearts would be.

The sacraments and our faith brings the Spirit of the Lord showering on us.  In return, it is up to us to continue to implement the Nazareth Manifesto of love in action.

Fifty years ago, the United States in the person of President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty.  The Church throughout its thousands of years of traditions has been fighting for the poorest of the poor for thousands of years. 

Yet, the poor are still with us as Jesus proclaimed.  (“The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.” Mark 14:7).  Consider the poor that are among your neighbors.  How are you helping one of them?

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