The Ninth Sunday of Pentecost
2 Corinthians 5, 20 – 6, 10 & Saint Luke 4, 14-21.
July 10, 2016 at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Norman, Oklahoma
These Gospel verses today record for us the very beginning of the mission of Jesus Christ. Jesus has emerged from the shadows of his youth as a man of purpose and direction. He knows who he is. He knows what his life is for and what he should do with his gifts. He is focused, consistent and clear about his life. We never get a sense in Luke’s Gospel that Jesus was self-conscious, doubted what God asked of him, or what direction to take with the choices he faced.
These are not qualities unique to Jesus. They are not qualities he possessed because he was someone special or divine making life easy for him. These are human qualities that Luke proposes should be found in those who would be disciples of Jesus Christ and follow him. Yet we see people all the time, and every one of us knows someone who just does not seem to “get it.” People who simply cannot seem to figure out who they are, where they are going in life, or what to do with their gift’s, and many of them are richly blessed. Some of them think they are here to look good, be attractive, be successful in business, yet all the while they are empty and there is a nagging sense that all is not really right. They go around in shallow circles, lonely and uncomfortable with themselves, lonely and fearful that this might all there is to life.
This cannot be so with disciples of Jesus Christ. They know who they are. They know where they are headed. They know what to do with their lives, their gifts, the opportunities that God’s providence supplies. They find things where Jesus found them: in the faithful observance of their religious tradition. They are in church. They are part of that church’s life so much so that they might be called upon to do something as Jesus was called upon to read that day. He was no stranger there. He was not passing through. Most of all, he knew the scriptures. He didn’t just play scriptural roulette and let the scroll fall open. He knew exactly where to find the prophet, and he knew a passage that focused his life and expressed God’s will for him.
In the grand scope of Luke’s writing there develops a parallel in which he reveals something about Jesus and at the same time something about the church as the community of believers. In other words, if Jesus did it so does the church. If Jesus said it, so says the church.
So today we hear Jesus put forth his agenda which is then the agenda of the church. It must be the agenda of every one of us. The work of Jesus began with the descent of the Holy Spirit at his Baptism. The work of the Church begins with Pentecost. First the Spirit guides and directs the work of Jesus, then the work of the church. What we must discover in Luke’s Gospel is that work of Jesus is not just spiritual, and it is not something for some far-off time in the future. What he does is for the present, and what he comes to do is for now. The liberation and the setting free he came to accomplish was for more than some future Kingdom of God. Those he touched did not have to wait till heaven before they could see, hear, walk, or be clean. Those who came in faith were saved by that faith, not later, not in heaven, but right then, and their joy, their praise, and the gratitude did not wait either.
So the agenda of Jesus is the whole person, and the liberty and release he came to accomplish came to mean the forgiveness of sin and all its consequences and manifestations. If he came to confront the sin of injustice, then the consequences of injustice were eliminated. If he came to release those who were held bound, then everything that held them had to go. Luke makes it clear that this ministry of Salvation effected the liberation of the whole person, body and soul, mind and spirit. If it were so for Jesus, then it must be so for us as well. Sharing the same Spirit we share the same agenda. We the liberated become the liberators. We who are saved share the same message of salvation for all. We the forgiven share forgiveness.
If I were to step down from here and hand any one of you the scriptures, could you find a passage that is for you and expression of God’s will, and a passage that gives your life purpose, meaning and direction? If not? Why not? The desire to imitate Jesus concerns more than morality and doing good. It must also imitate the whole of his life which was about fidelity to his religious traditions. He did not just go to Temple or Synagogue on the High Holy Days. He was there every time the assembly gathered no matter where he was. He had a firm knowledge of the Word of God. This behavior on his part was the source of his goodness as a human being, and that is where he discovered who he was and what his life was all about, and what he should do with his gifts.