The 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
“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.” (Lk. 1:1-4, 4:14-21)
This familiar passage is one of my favorites because, in it, Jesus basically tells us, “What you hear is what you get.” That is, he gives us his calling card so that there is no doubt who he is or what he’s about. In this quote from Isaiah, Jesus describes affirmation, liberation, and restoration as long-term expectations for pleasing God. The anointed one in his authority from the Father lays out for all who have ears to hear that not only a description of himself but implies that we, too, have a call to bring peace to our environment through these actions. Like the CBS Washington, DC Channel 9 News segment, let’s “verify” whether what Jesus proclaims is a prescription for our Christian witness and work.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me . . .'' Sound Catholic catechesis teaches us that Jesus is God and Man. Pictorial representations of His baptism by John at the Jordan River depict the Dove (image of the Holy Spirit) hovering above Him as the Father voices favor over his Son. The Spirit was upon Him. Our formation also certifies that when we are likewise Baptized, we too have the Spirit upon us. This Spirit led Jesus to release people from all manner of physical, mental and emotional bondage so they would be open to the love of the God who made them. By our Baptism, we share in this ability to provide opportunities for others to feel the invisible love of God” through our tangible acts of courtesy, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and patience.
“. . . because he has anointed me . . .” Jesus experienced at least two occasions of public acknowledgment of his priestly presence and kingly authority through the act of anointing. The woman of Bethany described in Matthew and Mark poured oil over Jesus’ head. His mother, Mary, also anointed His body after the crucifixion. Though both of these actions were associated with common burial practice, they also affirm Jesus’ royal position as our heavenly King of kings, Lord of lords, and Prince of Peace! At our Baptism and Confirmation, we are anointed into this same royalty. With this authority comes the responsibility to work for the common good. Humanity looks to us to carry out the actions that bring God’s presence into reality so that His kingdom is made manifest right here and now. It is a mandate to make the world a better place by changing the atmosphere we enter. The next part of the verse in Luke 4:18 denotes the scope of the impact we are expected to have.
“. . . 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, . . .” What a clearly dynamic to-do list! Jesus comes to us to undo the actions that reduce human beings to objects devoid of value. He works to bring revelation to those who wrap themselves in a cocoon of only what they want, know, feel, remaining “protected” in their self-imposed ignorance because it is more comfortable to live in it than to venture into the uncertainty of the new, different, unfamiliar. Jesus sends the message that bringing glad tidings, ending bondage, providing enlightenment, and dispensing mercy/forgiveness is the order of the day. It is a non-negotiable in his itinerary.
What of us, then? Yes, you and I who have been Baptized into Christ must do likewise. It is imperative, not up for debate. All life is of value. All people are worthy of dignity. All humanity is made in God's image and likeness; therefore, how we treat the precious gift of our individual lives and of others is of the highest priority. “Amen, Amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these . . .” (John 14:12) We must willingly seek to resolve our conflicts peacefully - give people the benefit of the doubt. God is asking us to relinquish our grip on disparaging perspectives and preconceived notions about people’s lifestyles, decisions, intentions, or appearances - be open to learning the value of difference. These actions and more bring the power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit to bear for all through us. Let it be said of you, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Are you doing your part? Are you living your anointing?
Authored: Charlene Howard, M.A., National Council Chair Pax Christi USA