Today, Jesus declares his mission and divine authority. The Father has anointed and sent him to bring good news to the poor, to free the captives, and to inaugurate the reign of grace and divine favour. He spoke with inimitable authority, and the people’s hearts were moved. There was something about him, unlike any other preacher. He was full of grace and power. In him the prophecy of Isaiah came alive as he declared, “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives” (Luke 4:18).We can just imagine some of the people there relating with those words—and sensing that their own deliverance was at hand!
Let’s remember a moment in our own life when we heard words that pierced our heart and made us feel the awesome presence of God. Perhaps it was a talk at a retreat, a homily,or even a verse of Scripture that spoke so eloquently we knew it was the power of God at work. This was the experience of the people in our First Reading today. Jerusalem was devastated, its walls destroyed by the Babylonians, and sadness and despair pervaded the land. Then came the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah seeking to restore hope and rebuild confidence by reading the Book of the Law to the people. The people were all in tears as they listened to the words of Scripture saying: “Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold” (Neh.8:10).What about those two disciples on the way to Emmaus who, after encountering the risen Lord, wondered aloud: “Did our hearts not burn within us?”(Luke 24:32). Think of the Centurion who looked at Christ dying on the Cross and declared: “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).
So what was it about Jesus? How was he able to have such profound impacts on people? It was the impact of divine favour. By the Holy Spirit he radiated so much wisdom and power that captivated his audiences. It was the same power that enabled him to feed multitudes, calm the storms, exorcise devils, heal the sick, and raise the dead. Jesus had “the fullness of God in a human body” (Col. 2:9). He came to bring good news to the poor, the suffering and those in captivity. And we are the captives and the blind! We all are – sometimes physically, and all the time spiritually! We suffer disappointments and frustrations all the time. We undergo the moral agony of selfishness, the will to dominate and to succeed by all means, to take advantage of the weak and vulnerable. We are captives of our self-centeredness, impatience, lust, greed, fear, dishonesty, and laziness: these bind us like chains.
Daily we are blinded by the vanity of earthly glory, which makes us think that we are doing well in life so long as we have enough money or success or pleasure or comfort. But we still yearn for forgiveness, for reconciliation, for kindness, for healing and restoration in our broken relationships. We long for joy in place of bitterness, and for peace and harmony in place of despair and cynicism. We crave for comfort in our sorrowful loneliness; we seek for answers for the many things that confound us; and from the very depths of our being we earnestly seek love – the love of God that takes away the emptiness of our lives. Many a time we put up a brave appearance, but deep inside we know that we are spiritually wretched, shackled, and blind.
But all of this is what Christ came to fix! He came that we may no longer be slaves to sin and unrighteousness; that we may no longer be imprisoned by guilt and shame. Christ has come that we may learn to live and love like those redeemed by his blood. Jesus is able to do all this because: “God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:29). He is imbued with the character, the imprint, the indelible mark of the Father, and his words and deeds have God the Father’s definitive stamp of approval. Thankfully, the same Holy Spirit that anointed Jesus is the same that we receive at Baptism and at Confirmation – the same Holy Spirit that changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ every day at mass. That’s how much power, joy, confidence, and hope that is available to us!
So what do we need to do? Two things! Firstly, we must believe that Jesus is able do in us all that the Father sent him to do. Where there is no faith, there is no hope; and where there is no hope life is meaningless. As Scripture says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Secondly, our Psalm today says: “The law of the Lord is perfect, it revives the soul. The rule of the Lord is to be trusted; it gives wisdom to the simple.” When we keep the law of the Lord he rewards us with a revived soul, wisdom, joy, and enlightenment! That’s what we all long for and that’s what Jesus offers us today.
Simply, we need to renew our faith in God and we need to keep his law. Fidelity to God’s will unleashes the impact of divine favour on us. It enriches us, breaks our chains and cures our blindness. Let us take some time today to go through the Commandments and see if there is any needing more attention. Doing this we can be rest assured that this Year of Mercy will be a Year of Divine Impact for us. May the Lord’s favour be ours in full measure and may his promises come to fruition in our lives. Amen!
Readings: Nehemiah 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10; Psalms 19:8, 9, 10, 15; First Corinthians 12:12-30 or 12; Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21