Today’s gospel reading is often described as Jesus’ inaugural address, his mission statement. He is saying very clearly what he is going to stand for and it is summarised so simply. He ends the quote from Isaiah with the proclamation of a year of favour from the Lord. Jesus omits the words which follow in Isaiah 61:2 : “and the day of our God’s vengeance”. Jesus does not quote these words because he has not come to proclaim judgment. His message is different. It’s not a message of retribution or retributive justice. This is a classic text for what we call restorative justice. God’s justice is fulfilled by lovingly and patiently remaking us into His image and likeness. Jesus announced that he has come to replace the old Jewish love of law with a new law of love.
What we hear depends greatly on what we bring to our listening. Poverty might be about money or material needs such as food, clothing, or housing. It might also be poverty of love, hope, or meaning. The captive might be a prisoner, an addicted person, or one overcome by anger and resentment. Blindness is not only physical but can also be emotional or spiritual. Oppression happens in hundreds of ways from physical or emotional violence, to racism, to fear, to profound sorrow. Today Jesus brings us good news of healing and freedom. With one foot in the past and one in the future we straddle and completely miss the present. We become captive to what was, oppressed by what might be, and blind to what is. To the extent we are unable to hear Jesus’ words we are either stuck in the past or living in a future we do not yet have.
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Hearing is about more than sound. It is about our presence, openness, and receptivity. We must be willing to take into ourselves the reality and truth of what is spoken. We must also be willing to take into ourselves the life and presence of the one who is speaking. Jesus is not just speaking words. He is speaking new life. In his speaking and our hearing his life and our life become one life. And it is happening today.
Once again we are favoured by Cathy York who writes these thoughtful reflections for us. Thanks Cathy.