3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Neh 8:2-6. 8-10 | 1 Cor 12:12-30 | Lk 1:1-4. 4:14-21
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
IN my four years as an ordained minister, I am always amazed at how frequently people ask me “what does a deacon do?” instead of just asking “what is a deacon?” You will probably be thinking what’s the difference? I can’t blame you because we become so accustomed of introducing ourselves by our professions—what we do—rather than by our name—who we are.
Maybe we identify ourselves this way, because we want to create or preserve a certain distance and anonymity and still be able to connect to people, especially those we meet for the first time.
But more than this, I feel that society use professional tags because in a world that canonises achievement, success and immediate solutions, it is almost inevitable that we measure all reality by these categories—a teacher, a doctor, an electrician, and so on.
Consequently, our profession subsumes our identity as people, and our personal values are measured in terms of achievement and success, or their opposites. But when we think that we are what we do and view ourselves and others through the lens of doing rather than of being, we end up destroying both the sense of self and the meaning of what we do—in short, we get a distorted view of ourselves, of other people, and of reality.
And a distorted view of a person, not only leads to alienation, and devaluation and rejection, and ultimately loneliness but also to exploitation. Because the elderly and the sick are not productively contributing to society, it is easy to dispose of them using euphemisms such as assisted dying or dying with dignity as excuses. We need to regain that authentic view of a person.
And the gospel readings for the next three weeks try to answer persistently that one question of identity, “Who is this Jesus?”. And in our gospel reading this Sunday, Jesus addresses the question and in his usual manner tries to give the answer to his own townsfolk—albeit obliquely.
He applied to himself the ancient prophesy of Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the poor….”
And to the people, this must have come as a surprise. Why? Because they only knew Jesus as the son of the carpenter. Jesus’ self-appropriation of Isaiah’s Anointed One did not fit in with their idea and expectations of the Messiah. Like most of us, Jesus’ own people defined him based on what he did—a carpenter—so it was hard for them to accept him as who he really is—the Messiah.
However, Jesus is not ‘either/or’ but ‘both/and’. Yes, he is the anointed one of God making God totally caught up in his earthly life but He is also the son of the carpenter, where God becomes totally immersed in the daily human experience of Jesus—and through Jesus, of every human being.
For Jesus, who he is and what he does—identity and mission—are not interchangeable, but entwined into each other, neither having any sense without the other. In the gospel, Jesus claims that “the spirit of the Lord” is on him. He is the “Anointed One, and “the Beloved of God”—that’s His identity fundamentally and essentially.
But precisely because he is the Anointed Beloved of God, the second part of the Isaiah’s prophesy is the inevitable and inescapable consequence of the same claim: “He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.” There is no break between the two dimensions, because there is no dichotomy in the life and mission of Jesus.
And in this new year, that is also the call for each one of us. Who we are and what we do should mirror Jesus—no dichotomy in our life and mission as His disciples, as Christians, as Catholics.
Precisely because we are Catholics we are all called “to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives… to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.” We are Catholics so we are called to be companions in faith with one another.
So for this year, brothers and sisters, because we’re Catholics, because we’re part of this great parish community, let’s try to be more charitable, more patient with one another. We should smile more, be happy so that people around us will truly see how joyful it is to be part of the Church, in which the Anointed Beloved of God is the head. ###