God has sent us to act with grace

By | January 23, 2013

The Gospel selection for today is a dramatic moment in the early ministry of Christ. It reveals his clear understanding of himself as the Messiah and the one sent by the Father for the work of redemption. He is seen in the synagogue with others and is selected to preach for what appears to be a traditional service. He unrolls the scroll of Isaiah, since there was no Bible, and looks for a very particular passage known to refer to the coming Messiah. He no doubt reads it with conviction and then pronounces the unthinkable to those gathered, “This passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

His statement is received with joy perhaps partly because they did not recognize the full significance of what he just said. From here forward, Christ moves to fulfill this passage both physically and spiritually. You and I, who are mystically joined to him through baptism, are also sent to continue this work until he comes again. So who are the poor, the blind, the captive and the oppressed of our present age, either physically or spiritually? God addresses his good news to both realities. Who would be on your list?

We may think first of the physically poor and unsheltered in our own community. God has sent us to help make manifest his redemption and triumph over sin, brokenness and death. We think of the voiceless unborn in the womb who have a right to our tireless defense of their existence. We may also think of the oppressed and those held captive through such things as human trafficking and slavery. The physically blind are representative of the entire call of impaired persons who have a claim on our hearts and lives for assistance and compassion. We are not excused from action, though God also makes clear that the final restoration only takes place in the kingdom to come, in which through our present action we already participate.

The spiritual component of this prophetic mission is just as real and just as imperative. Who are the poor and impoverished spiritually? We could name them as the unchurched and unaffiliated who have yet to hear the full Gospel truth proclaimed. They are in our own families and schools and their number seems to be growing and hence our mission all the more urgent. Our society seeks direction and Christ wishes to provide it. The blindness of the present age is evident as we observe the confusion over what is marriage, family and a full human person. Countless persons are haunted by past sin, sorrow and sadness or are oppressed by vanity, materialism, hedonism and the rat race of the modern age. Our own lives often do not escape these. Christ proclaims freedom to each of these, especially through sacramental confession and through a new human dignity and self-worth based solely on the Father’s love for me.

Opportunities for Holiness

1. Pray for the grace to see both the physically and spiritually in need.

2. Pray for the grace to act when sent.

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Bernard Parish and St. Philip the Apostle Parish, Green Bay.

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