Ordinary Time 3
Nehemiah 8, 2-4, 5-6, 8-10 + Psalm 19 + 1 Corinthians 12, 12-14, 27 + Luke 1, 1-4; 4, 14-21
January 24, 2016 at Saint Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, FL.
“Today” is an important word in Luke’s Gospel. He uses it 11 times, and one of those occasions we have already heard in the second chapter with an announcement by angels: “Today is born a savior.” Today is where it’s all happening in Luke’s Gospel from the song of angels through the healing of bodies and souls, on to the betrayal by friends and then his last forgiving moments on the cross when he says: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The Gospel, not just Luke’s, is not about the good old days when Jesus was actually preaching in synagogues. Neither is the Gospel about tomorrow or some time way off in the future when eventually things will be good. Those words were spoken for those people to understand who he was and why. The Gospel is about today. As Jesus fulfilled his mission so clearly spoken in that synagogue, things were happening right then. When he saw someone blind or deaf he didn’t say we’ll take care of that tomorrow. When he met someone who was sick he never told them they would get better eventually. When he spoke to that man who came down through the roof, he said: “Your sins are forgiven.” He didn’t say “tomorrow”, or “after you’ve done enough penance”. It happened then.
A busy world and busy people making it so usually find this whole idea of “today” a little challenging. Who wants one more thing to do today when more will probably be left undone at the end of the day than was actually accomplished? I suspect that those people sitting in that synagogue were doing just fine with Jesus until he sat down and said that word, “Today.” Until that moment, they must have been amazed at how well he read, at how comfortable he was in the synagogue among them. Then suddenly the mood changes with that one word. They were quite used to having the scriptures comfort them and talk about the days to come when things would be great for them again off in the future. They liked it when the preacher told them about how loveable they were in God’s eyes and when the teaching shored up their self-satisfaction. They liked hearing about what God was going to do for them, but then he said that word. He was promising things for others: the poor, the blind, the captives, and the oppressed!
“What about us?” they surely must have been thinking, and the more they listened, the more they got the point. There were no poor, blind, or captives in that synagogue any more than there are poor, blind, and captives here. This message did not offer them anything except a challenge. It was not about them, in fact, it was for them that he said these things. These words were spoken for those people to understand who he was and why he was there. He had no good news for them unless they wanted to confess that they were impoverished, blind, bound, and oppressed. The truth of the matter is, they were all of those things, but they could not admit it. They wanted to be told how good they were, not have someone suggest what they should be doing that day.
The same thing is happening here. We are not poor, blind, captive or oppressed. This Gospel does not offer us any great comfort or pat us on the back nearly as much as it expresses who we are and what we should be doing today. As Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians says: “Now you are Christ’s body.” If that is true, then there is no doubt about what we are to do with our lives, and what we are to do today. As Paul suggests, there are no excuses. There’s no putting it off till tomorrow or till we finish what we’re doing later today. There’s no opting out because we’re too old, too tired, or too sick. It is all about what we are doing today.
We are a people who have been anointed with the Holy Spirit no less than Jesus himself. The power, the grace, the gifts of our Baptism and Confirmation make it unmistakable that we are sent to relieve the suffering of the poor and give them some Joy. We are sent to give the blind a vision of the Kingdom of God letting them see the face of God by our merciful presence. We are sent to free those who are held captive by refusal to forgive and release them with mercy. This is to happen today, not tomorrow. If you choose to receive the Body of Christ today and become one with Christ in Communion, then there is no doubt about what you are to do today. The truth of the matter is, the world has its eyes fixed upon us watching and waiting to see if this Scripture passage is fulfilled.