January 24th, 2016; Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: 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. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Fables and epic stories begin with something along the lines of “Once upon a time” or “A long long time ago, in a galaxy far away…” Biographies on the other hand begin with concrete dates, places, and people. The Christian faith differs from other religions because it is not the accumulation of man’s wisdom in his search for God, rather it rests on the testimony of men’s experience encountering God in His search for us. St. Luke begins his Gospel as a biography not a story. He underscores his intent to present the research he has compiled through his investigations in an orderly way. The historical reality of Jesus, His place of origin, death under Pontius Pilate, the respect He gained from multitudes of people, and the numerous witnesses of His miracles are written of not only by the Gospel writers but secular historians of the time as well such as the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.
The apostles believed in Jesus because of what they saw as did many of the first followers of Christ. Their faith centered on the climatic event of the Resurrection and seeing Jesus for the 40 days leading up to His ascension into heaven. When choosing someone to replace Judas for instance, the apostles required that the candidates be men who had followed Jesus from His Baptism through His Ascension and that the person had been a witness of the Resurrected Christ. The early Christians did not preach a “spirituality” or self-help plan and Christ is not our universal imaginary friend. The early Christians died for their belief in the reality of Christ and His promise of resurrection. Their willingness to sacrifice everything this life has to offer proved their belief in the promises of Christ in Heaven. The apostles and martyrs had nothing worldly to gain from their belief and their supernatural deeds of heroism, courage, sacrifice, and love served as a potent witness of the authenticity of their testimony.
Jesus brings “glad tidings to the poor” because He freed captives, healed the blind and lame, comforted the sorrowful, and gave eternal life to those willing to accept His love. He then gave this same power to His followers through His Holy Spirit. Read Acts of the Apostles, also authored by Luke, to see the evident power of God at work through the apostles.
The mission of Christ to free and heal continues in His Church today. St. Paul writes in his first letter the Corinthians:
|Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. (I Corinthians 12:28)|
Every Christian is called to witness to Christ. The early Christians demonstrated their belief by how much they were willing to risk for their faith. The same applies for us as Christians today. Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) challenged in his sermon Venture of Faith that we consider how “Christian” we really are by reflecting on our commitment:
|Consider for an instant. Let every one who hears me ask himself the question, what stake has he in the truth of Christ’s promise? How would he be a whit the worse off, supposing (which is impossible), but, supposing it to fail? We know what it is to have a stake in any venture of this world. We venture our property in plans which promise a return; in plans which we trust, which we have faith in. What have we ventured for Christ? What have we given to Him on a belief of His promise? The Apostle said, that he and his brethren would be of all men most miserable, if the dead were not raised. Can we in any degree apply this to ourselves? We think, perhaps, at present, we have some hope of heaven; well, this we should lose of course; but after all, how should we be worse off as to our present condition? A trader, who has embarked some property in a speculation which fails, not only loses his prospect of gain, but somewhat of his own, which he ventured with the hope of the gain. This is the question, What have we ventured? I really fear, when we come to examine, it will be found that there is nothing we resolve, nothing we do, nothing we do not do, nothing we avoid, nothing we choose, nothing we give up, nothing we pursue, which we should not resolve, and do, and not do, and avoid, and choose, and give up, and pursue, if Christ had not died, and heaven were not promised us. I really fear that most men called Christians, whatever they may profess, whatever they may think they feel, whatever warmth and illumination and love they may claim as their own, yet would go on almost as they do, neither much better nor much worse, if they believed Christianity to be a fable.|
Every Christian risks something because Christ transforms us which requires breaking things down as well as building things up. That risk may be something material or it may be immaterial. It may mean putting family before career or taking a risk in your career to reach for greatness. It may mean taking the risk of emotional vulnerability, making connections with people, surrendering fear, or accepting the truth of your worth in God’s eyes. When united to Christ, He will do great things through you. Each person has gifts from the Spirit and they vary. Today’s Gospel reminds us of the mighty deeds of Christ, witnessed by many, and continued today. Let us pray for the courage to take a leap of faith and trust in the power and love of Christ.
- Consider the great things Christ has done in and through you.
- Consider the great things Christ could do in and through you if you let Him. Reflect on what holds you back and prayerfully surrender it to Christ.
- Reflect on how Christ has set you free, opened your eyes, and brought you glad tidings.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Pray each day for God to work in you.
- Pray each day for God to work through When given the opportunity, take the risk to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
- Read Acts of the Apostles.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016
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