Because He Has Anointed Me…

After reading the introduction to the Gospel of Luke (1:1-4), the Lectionary divides the scene of Jesus at the synagogue in Nazareth over two Sundays.

As we read last Sunday, Jesus is assigned to read the scripture for the day. He is handed Isaiah’s scroll but he has a choice on what passage to read. Familiar with scripture as he was, Jesus immediately finds the passage he wants to read. We have to understand his choice as Jesus giving us his “mission statement.”

A few years ago it was in fashion that all kinds of institutions, including churches, would draft their mission and vision statements. The idea was to summarize the identity and the scope of action of the institution. This is exactly what Jesus does in the synagogue in the town that saw him grow: he draws from the greatest of the prophets to proclaim what he sees his identity and mission to be:

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.”

The chosen passage prompts a series of questions to be asked of the Church, any faith community, and any individuals who consider themselves Christian: do we feel anointed, individuals and communities who see themselves as having been given a mission? Are we about bringing good news, especially to the poor? Do we work to end captivity, understood as the fight against the many things that become restrictions to our freedom today? Do we help people in the task of learning to see things the way Jesus would see them?

We often feel more annoyed than anointed; we do not live the good news, so how are we going to communicate it; we live a faith of rule and ritual that ignores the demands it should have towards our neighbors, especially the poor; our preaching may just help people to continue dwelling in complacency in the name of formal purity and observance; we focus on some captivities and ignore some blatant others; and we continue conveying the idea of a God of condemnation more than the merciful Father Jesus continuously spoke about.

A message like this will always provoke conflict, which is why the “eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.” But Jesus just repeated, indeed, this is me. As we will read this Sunday, those gathered in a sacred place of faith try to kill him for the first time. It took Jesus all of four chapters to get in serious trouble.

Jesus in the Synagogue

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The Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him…

The gospel text to inaugurate Ordinary time is a challenging one. Despite being in the Matthean Cycle (Cycle A) the text is taken from the Gospel of John (John 1:29-34) and it describes again the encounter between John the Baptist and Jesus. One very clear message arising from this gospel has the challenge for me that it is something I already have preached on a number of times during the last months, including last week: John describes his baptism as one of cleansing, of repentance from sin; John himself says that the baptism of Jesus will be one of Holy Spirit–therefore, a baptism of mission. Interestingly enough, we have retained both meanings in our ritual of baptism: we use the water of cleansing, but also the Chrism oil of anointing for a mission. While this would have been my primary message, I believe that I may have to see if there is something new arising from the text.

At these initial stages of preparation, my attention has moved to the beginning of the text: “John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said ‘Behold the Lamb of God…’ John, encapsulating all the Old Testament prophecy, is able to recognize Jesus and to call him the ‘Lamb of God’. Recognizing Jesus and recognizing Jesus’ identity is one of the general themes in John’s gospel. Upon listening to this gospel we should wonder also about our capacity to recognize Jesus in our lives and whether we know who He is.

The text says that John recognizes Jesus because he sees the Spirit coming down and remaining on Him. John sees this at Jesus’ baptism which we celebrated last week. I believe that, in the same way, the Spirit still “comes down and remains” in people, and also in projects, today. As a pastor, it is one of my most difficult: of everything we do, what things are of the Spirit and which ones are not? of all the people I meet, who speaks on behalf of the Spirit to us and who does not? Each time I have an idea about something we should do as a Faith community, is it of the Spirit or is it not? It is called discernment, and it is, precisely, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The process will continue, but this is where I am right now.

On Being Intentional.

I am gladly surprised with the reception of the new blog: 489 views (minus my own 🙂 ) and five comments (only one from mom). I have thought that one of the things this blog will do is to show the preparation for the Sunday homily. Here you will be able to read where I am in that process. I usually get to read the readings for the first time the Sunday before. During the week I keep thinking about it. I will share the directions of my thoughts here. Sometimes, they will end up being part of the homily, other times the ideas may be totally dismissed. I am not sure if it will be helpful for those of you who will read the posts, but it will certainly be helpful to me–and I hope you comment so I know if I am hitting someplace or not. If you are a parishioner to Sacred Heart, it may help you to prepare for our own liturgies… So here it goes for this week: Sometimes a word pops up during the process of homily preparation. Sometimes the word is in the text of the Gospel, sometimes it is not. In reflecting about the meaning of Jesus’s baptism, the word that came to mind and has stayed is “intentional”. Jesus does not need a baptism of repentance, he was without sin, but he needs a point in his own history and development in which he realizes his mission and embraces it. From that point on, he is “intentional” about his vocation. So we too are invited to become more “intentional” about our vocation. What vocation? Way before we start speaking about our “faith” vocation and how intentional are we about it, we should start by reflecting how intentional we are about our many other vocations: because being a mother, a wife, a husband, a father, a grandparent is a vocation. Being a friend–Facebook allowing–is also a vocation. Many professions are a vocation…and being a member of a Faith community should also be a vocation. The reflection this Sunday may be about this: how intentional are we about our vocations? and then How intentional are we about our very important vocation in faith. Blog to you soon!