Jesus is not only WHAT we proclaim, he also shows us HOW to proclaim ...
Just one verse each day.
Pope Francis is dedicating his Wednesday audiences to the theme of sharing Jesus with others. On this January 25, he spoke of Jesus as a teacher and model of how we should go about sharing the Gospel with those around us.
The Pope looked at a “sermon” that Jesus gave in the synagogue, as recounted in the Gospel of Luke. The Lord read a passage from Isaiah (cf 61:1-2) and then says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Pope reflected:
This was Jesus’ sermon: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. This means that for Jesus that prophetic passage contains the essence of what He wants to say about Himself. So, whenever we talk about Jesus, we should go back to that first announcement of His. Let us see, then, what it consists of. Five essential elements can be identified.
The first element is joy. Jesus proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; […] He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor” (v. 18), that is, a proclamation of gladness, of joy. Good news: one cannot speak of Jesus without joy, because faith is a wonderful love story to be shared. […] When joy is lacking, the Gospel does not come through, because – it’s the very meaning of the word – is good news, and “Gospel” means “good news,” a proclamation of joy. A sad Christian can talk about beautiful things, but it is all in vain if the news he conveys is not joyful. A thinker once said, “A Christian who is sad is a sad Christian.” Don’t forget this.
We come to the second aspect: deliverance. Jesus says He was sent to “release the captives” (ibid.). This means that one who proclaims God cannot proselytize, no, cannot pressure others, no, but relieve them: not impose burdens, but take them away; bearing peace, not bearing guilt. Of course, following Jesus involves asceticism, involves sacrifices; after all, if every good thing requires these things, how much more the decisive reality of life! However, those who witness to Christ show the beauty of the goal rather than the toil of the journey. We may have happened to tell someone about a beautiful trip we took, for example: We would have spoken about the beauty of the places, what we saw and experienced, not about the time to get there and the queues at the airport, no! So, any announcement worthy of the Redeemer must communicate liberation. Like that of Jesus. Today there is joy, because I have come to liberate.
The third aspect: light. Jesus says He came to bring “sight to the blind” (ibid.). It is striking that throughout the Bible, before Christ, the healing of a blind man never appears, never. It was indeed a promised sign that would come with the Messiah. But here it is not just about physical sight, but a light that makes one see the life of a new world, and also life in a new way. There is a “coming into the light,” a rebirth that happens only with Jesus. If we think about it, that is how Christian life began for us: with Baptism, which in ancient times was called precisely “enlightenment.”
And what light does Jesus give us? He brings us the light of sonship: He is the beloved Son of the Father, living forever; with Him we too are children of God loved forever, despite our mistakes and faults. So life is no longer a blind advance toward nothingness, no; it is not a matter of fate or luck, no. It is not something that depends on chance or the stars, no, or even on health or finances, no. Life depends on love, on the love of the Father, Who cares for us, His beloved children. How wonderful to share this light with others!
Has it occurred to you that the life of each of us – my life, your life, our life – is an act of love? And an invitation to love? This is wonderful! […]
The fourth aspect of the proclamation: healing. Jesus says He came “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (ibid.). The oppressed are those in life who feel crushed by something that happens: sickness, labors, burdens on the heart, guilt, mistakes, vices, sins… Oppressed by this.
We think of the sense of guilt, for example. How many of us have suffered this? […] What is oppressing us above all is precisely that evil that no medicine or human remedy can heal: sin. And if someone has a sense of guilt, it is for something they have done, and that feels bad. But the good news is that with Jesus, this ancient evil, sin, which seems invincible, no longer has the last word.
[…] The good news is that with Jesus this ancient evil no longer has the last word: The last word is Jesus’ outstretched hand that carries you forward.
Jesus heals us from sin, always. And how much do I have to pay for this healing? Nothing. He heals us always and gratuitously. He invites those who “labour and are heavy laden” — He says it in the Gospel – invites them to come to Him (cf. Mt 11:28). And so to accompany someone to an encounter with Jesus is to bring them to the doctor of the heart, Who lifts up life. That is to say, “Brother, sister, I don’t have answers to so many of your problems, but Jesus knows you, Jesus loves you and can heal and soothe your heart. Go and leave them with Jesus.”
[…] Jesus is waiting for us to forgive us, to restore us. And how often? Once? Twice? No. Always. “But Father, I do the same things always…” And He will always do His same thing! Forgiving you, embracing you. Please, let us not distrust this. This is the way to love the Lord. Those who carry burdens and need a caress for the past need forgiveness, and Jesus does that. And that’s what Jesus gives: to free the soul from all debt. […]
The proclamation of Jesus must always bring the amazement of grace. This amazement… “No, I can’t believe it! I have been forgiven.” But this is how great our God is. Because it is not we who do great things, but rather the grace of the Lord who, even through us, accomplishes unexpected things. And these are the surprises of God. God is the master of surprises. […] The Gospel comes with a sense of wonder and newness that has a name: Jesus.
5To the poor, that is, to me …
[…] The last thing: This good news, which the Gospel says is addressed “to the poor” (v. 18). We often forget about them, yet they are the recipients explicitly mentioned, because they are God’s beloved. Let us remember them, and let us remember that, in order to welcome the Lord, each of us must make him- or herself “poor within.” […] “Lord, I am in need, I am in need of forgiveness, I am in need of help, I am in need of strength.”
This poverty that we all have: making oneself poor interiorly. You have to overcome any pretense of self-sufficiency in order to understand oneself to be in need of grace, and to always be in need of Him. If someone asks me, “Father, what is the shortest way to encounter Jesus?” Be needy. Be needy for grace, needy for forgiveness, be needy for joy. And he will draw near to you.