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Anything but Ordinary: What Luke Understood

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What was Jesus' "Mission Statement"?

Living the Word

The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

January 24, 2016

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.

—Luke 1:1-4

 To read this Sunday’s Mass readings, click here.

 

“There are three stages of spiritual development: the carnal, the spiritual, and the divine,” an old monk once explained to a novice.

“What is the carnal stage?” the novice asked.

“That’s the stage,” the old monk said, “when trees are seen as trees and mountains are seen as mountains.”

“And the spiritual?” the novice asked eagerly.

“That’s when we look more deeply into things. Then trees are no longer trees and mountains are no longer mountains,” the old monk answered.

“And the divine?” the novice asked breathlessly.

“Ah,” the old monk said with a smile. “That’s Enlightenment — when the trees become trees again and the mountains become mountains.”

Like the old monk in the story, the Evangelist Luke understood that the enlightenment offered by the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth allowed for a new understanding and realization of the reign of God, a reality first envisioned by Israel’s prophets.

For St. Luke, there was no question that the coming of Jesus initiated a new age and that Jesus was the centerpiece of history, binding together Israel’s hopes and heritage with the future and promise of the Church (which St. Luke wrote about in the Acts of the Apostles). And so when Luke tells us the story of Jesus reading Isaiah’s prophecy in his hometown synagogue (4:16-19; recounted in this Sunday’s Gospel), he was not just recalling vague promises from the past. Instead, Jesus was taking Isaiah’s words as his own: “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.”

This passage could be said to be Jesus’ “mission statement.” And St. Luke understood that Jesus’ mission was for all peoples, especially those on the fringes of society: sinners, the sick, the physically disabled and women and children — all groups given special attention in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus was proclaiming that all of God’s promises were now being fulfilled in him. And those who heard him were filled with wonder and awe (cf. Luke 4:20).

The Gospel for this Sunday sets the scene for the remainder of the year, as we journey through the Gospel of Luke. And in a sense, the liturgy of this Third Sunday of Ordinary Time brings to an end our Epiphany reflections on who Jesus is by presenting us with a vision of what it is he would accomplish.

Ordinary Time could be said to be a season of enlightenment when, with Saint Luke the Evangelist as our teacher and guide, we are invited enter more deeply into the truth of who Jesus is and what his transforming mission means for our world.

What is a passage of the Gospels that gives you a special insight into the mission of Jesus?

 How can you make Sacred Scripture a greater part of your prayer life this year?

 Jesus’ “mission statement” is at the heart of what we celebrate in this Year of Mercy. How are you being called to share in Jesus’ mission to the poor and those who have been forgotten by society?

Words of Wisdom: “A ‘year of the Lord’s favor’ or ‘mercy’: this is what the Lord proclaimed and this is what we wish to live now. This Holy Year will bring to the fore the richness of Jesus’ mission echoed in the words of the prophet: to bring a word and gesture of consolation to the poor, to proclaim liberty to those bound by new forms of slavery in modern society, to restore sight to those who can see no more because they are caught up in themselves, to restore dignity to all those from whom it has been robbed. The preaching of Jesus is made visible once more in the response of faith which Christians are called to offer by their witness. May the words of the apostle accompany us: he who does acts of mercy, let him do them with cheerfulness (cf. Romans 12:8)”—Pope Francis (Misericordiae Vultus: The Face of Mercy, 16).

 

Silas S. Henderson is in formation with the Society of the Divine Savior (the Salvatorians) and currently serves as the managing editor of Abbey Press Publications and Deacon Digest magazine. He is the author of numerous reflections and books. He can be found at www.fromseason2season.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/SilasSHenderson.

 

 

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