THEME: BE AN EPITOME OF HOPE TO YOUR GENERATION
Today's Gospel reading combines two separate passages taken from the Gospel of Luke. First we hear the opening verses where Luke establishes the purpose of his Gospel. His style is typical of polished Greek and Roman literature. In this passage, we learn that Luke may have written to a specific person, Theophilus; but the word Theophilus may also be a general reference, functioning as the phrase “Dear Reader” in contemporary writing. In Greek, the word Theophilus translates as “lover of God.”
Today's Gospel reading then skips several chapters in which one would find the Infancy Narratives, Jesus' baptism by John, the temptations Jesus faced in the desert and the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. In chapter four of Luke's Gospel, we hear that Jesus is in his hometown of Nazareth, attending the synagogue on the Sabbath, which is said to be his custom. In this account, we find another important clue that Jesus lived as a faithful, observant Jew. We will continue to read from Luke's Gospel in sequence for the next two Sundays.
As Jesus stands in the synagogue, he reads from the scroll handed to him; it contains the words of the prophet Isaiah. At this early moment in his ministry, Jesus announces his mission in continuity with Israel's prophetic tradition. This reading from Isaiah defines Jesus' ministry. We will find more evidence of this as we continue to read from Luke's Gospel throughout the year. Jesus' ministry will include bringing glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, healing to the sick, freedom to the oppressed, and proclaiming a year acceptable to the Lord.
Through this text from Isaiah, Jesus announces God's salvation. The “year acceptable to the Lord” is a reference to the Jewish tradition of Sabbath years and jubilee. The Sabbath year was observed every seventh year. It was a year of rest when land was left fallow and food stores were to be shared equally with all. A year of Jubilee was celebrated every fiftieth year, the conclusion of seven cycles of Sabbath years. It was a year of renewal in which debts were forgiven and slaves were freed.
This tradition of Jubilee is the framework for God's promise of salvation. And yet in Jesus, something new begins. Jesus not only announces God's salvation, he brings this salvation about in his person. Jesus is Yahweh's Anointed One, filled with the Spirit of God. The Kingdom of God is now at hand. It is made present in Jesus, in his life, death, and Resurrection. Jesus will send the Holy Spirit so that the Kingdom of God can be fulfilled.
The Holy Spirit is Jesus' gift to the Church. The Holy Spirit enables the Church to continue the mission of Jesus. When we do what Jesus did—bring glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, healing to the sick, and freedom to the oppressed—we serve the Kingdom of God.
Jesus was the one sent by God to bring salvation to the world. Jesus announced that mission using the framework we hear in today's Gospel from the prophet Isaiah: glad tidings will be brought to the poor, liberty to captives, recovery of sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed. Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God in his person—through his life, death, and Resurrection. We are charged with the task of continuing the mission that Jesus began. Jesus set the framework for all of us when he announced his ministry in today's Gospel. Jesus also gave us the helper we would need to enable us to participate in his mission. The Holy Spirit has been given to us so that we, the Church, might serve the Kingdom of God.
Gather with your family and suggest that they try to picture the vision that Jesus describes using the words of the prophet Isaiah as you read today's Gospel, Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21.Think about your neighborhood, your community. What are the situations and who are the people who most need to see this vision fulfilled? What steps would be necessary to make the vision a reality for them? Make a family commitment to pray for the Kingdom of God and to take a particular action that will address a need you see in your community. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you by praying the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.