Homily of the Third Sunday per Annum
Fr. Francesco Pesce
That Saturday at the Synagogue, Jesus took the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah and as the Greek text says, he found that passage after he had looked for it. In fact, the Greek verb is eurisko – from which the well known exclamation eureka! comes from. Jesus perhaps chooses a passage that was not expected to be read and instead He looks for and then finds purposedly to read it at that time.
It is Chapter 61 of the Prophet 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 afflicted,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
release to the prisoners”.
What is this “good news” Isaiah refers to and Jesus echoes? The “good news” that the poor are waiting for (the poor are again the first ones this joyful announcement is addressed to) is the end of poverty. The prisoners await liberty, the blind are hoping to be able to see, and the oppressed desire to be relieved from their burdens.
In our world, we are witnesses (or often rather “willing” or “unarmed” spectators), to the many forms of poverty (material, moral, spiritual) injustice, abuse, disability, vulnerability…We ourselves, in our own lives, have our poverties too. We are prisoners of so many things and we are oppressed in some part of our hearts. But, as Isaiah predicted and Jesus reminded us: “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God…he comes to save you.” (Is 35) and “the truth will set you free.” (John 8,32). That salvation, that truth is actually the Lord Jesus, who is the fulfillment of Scripture, namely the realization of the “good news”. Therefore, it is important for all of us to have consciousness, to be sure that there is a reference point, a “Polar Star” to look at. We need to be aware that we walk across a path already traced and – using again Isaiah’s words – “smoothed out” by the Lord in the desert, sometimes the desert of our lives, our societies….We need to keep our eyes on him and follow him, by being led by the Holy Spirit, while being confident that we will not lose the way. Many times we look for something but we cannot find it (e.g. the solution to a certain problem, the answer to a question, the courage to make a choice …) because we only rely on our capacities, we plan based on our reasoning, and we only consider our priorities…..We do not understand that we have to “overthrow” the way we think, see and do things: because first of all we have already been “found” by the Lord, and especially loved and “saved” by Him.
St. Luke continues to write: “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‘.”
Certainly we need to be informed., properly briefed; we must read, pray and meditate the Word of God. But after all that, we then have to close the “book”, “roll it up” as Jesus did, to put ourselves at the service of those who wait for their liberation and that have their eyes on us and expect from us a word of comfort, a clear stand on an issue, a gesture of hope, maybe even to break something…Let us remember what the Lord told us: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
Today there are millions of children, women, entire peoples that are waiting for us and watching us. Thinking “smaller”, there are so many people who expect a response from us in our daily lives – our neighbors, colleagues, family members and the many poor who are on the streets of our cities…It has been for too long time that our Western world, our homes, and sometimes even churches look like the community of Ezra described in the First Reading. A community that was closed to the external world in its self-sufficiency and forgot the needs of the poor. Many people are awaiting their liberation and keep their eyes on us. We, as Christians, what are we doing?
Our role as Christians is first of all to contribute to building a society that is “liberated”. All of us are first of all baptized in the Holy Spirit Who frees the oppressed. We must feel the pressing urgency of this task, of this mission – the liberation of the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.