Jesus knew His Redemptive mission. From that day forward he set about living it. Do we know our mission? Are we exhibiting a holy boldness in undertaking it? The power to effect redemptive change in the world comes from the life of God within us.
Jesus read from the Prophet Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - As we progress toward the great Feast of the Baptism of the Lord our readings speak to us of mission. They challenge each of us who¬†bear the name Christian to continue the mission of Jesus in the world. He now lives His Life in and through us as we live our life in Him.
In today's Gospel (Luke. 4:14-22), the Evangelist Luke tells us that Jesus returned to Galilee "in the power of the Spirit". He went to the synagogue in Nazareth which he attended growing up, picked up the Scroll which contained a particular Prophecy of Isaiah, and proclaimed¬†these words:
"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."
Then, the Evangelist continues, "Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."¬† And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth."
Wow! What a scene that must have been. What holy boldness and confidence in his redemptive mission Jesus showed. Of course, those in attendance were amazed. However, some of them were probably numbered among the ones who later turned against Him. It did not matter.
Jesus knew His Redemptive mission. From that day forward he set about living it. Do we know our mission? Are we exhibiting a holy boldness in undertaking it?
Our epistle readings over these last few days have been taken from the first letter of the beloved disciple John. In yesterdays passage we were reminded that God is love and all who live in love live in God. (1 John 4:11-18). We heard these profound words "because, as he is, so are we in this world."¬† Today, the same John reminds us that "whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith."
The scriptures use the term 'the world' in different senses. Sadly, the distinction does not come through in our English translations and we can become confued. Are we to reject or to love the world?¬†The answer is both, depending upon what is meant by the word "world" in the passage. There is "the world" that God created and looked upon and said "it is good". (See e.g. Genesis, chapter 1). That world is still good. It is filled with beauty and reflects the Divine artist and architect who made it. That world He entrusted to the crown of his creation - man and woman- you and me.
As Christians we are called to love that world as God loves that world. Because we live in Jesus Christ, He continues His redemptive mission in and through us! God created us for Himself. He made us in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). He placed us within this created world with a purpose. God so loved the world he sent His only Son into it to save it! (John 3:16).In and through Jesus, the Image of God is restored in us. His¬†likeness is being formed as we¬†cooperate with grace.¬†¬†
And, we are the bginning if the re-creation of the world. God continues to send His Son into the world. Jesus now walks in that world through His Body, the Church, which is the new world, being re-created in Him.¬† Understanding and living this reality can change the way we view the entirety of our human existence. We live our daily lives now in the Lord. In a very real sense, we actually live in the Church and go into the world.
One of the titles that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council ascribed to the Church (found in early patristic literature) is the "the world reconciled." That same Council reaffirmed the ancient Patristic Image of the Church as a seed of the kingdom in the midst of the world.
That world is not evil. Some of the confusion concerning our relationship to the world comes from the remnants of one of the early heresies in Christian history, Manichaeism. The followers of this error believed that all matter itself was evil. That is NOT the Christian belief.
We profess in our Creed a belief in a bodily resurrection and the coming of a new heaven and new earth!¬† Yet this error of viewing matter as evil still infects and can lead to a kind "ghetto mentality" whereby Christians withdraw from the world.
In today's epistle, John is referring to "the world" in a different sense. That system which has¬†has forgotten God; the¬†culture of death and use which has squeezed God out of His rightful place and substituted idols. This is the world which we can conquer through the exercise of living faith. That system is also called "the world" in the bible. (See, e.g. James 4:4).
We are in that world as He is in that world, to transform it from within, in Him. He continues His redemptive mission in and through us. However, we do not "love" that world, in the sense of giving ourselves over to its dominion. We reject that system in order to free those enchained by its lies.
The Father wants to bring the entire human race back into a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ. Those of us who live in Christ are now sent on mission into the world. We are to bring all men and women into the new world of the Church.
The seed of the kingdom, the living Word, has been planted within us. And now, we become the seed, the salt and the leaven for the Divine Sower who continues His redemptive mission in a world waiting to be reborn in Him.
He now spreads us in the field of the world to bear a harvest for the Kingdom to come. We are called to live at the crossroads of that world and become missionaries of the new world, of which the Church is a seed and sign.
The power to effect redemptive change in the world comes from the life of God within us. It is amazing how little leaven it takes to raise a loaf of bread. That is because within those little particles of yeast is found the power to ferment, to change the lump of wet dough into a loaf of aromatic, tasty, nourishing bread. However, the power contained within that yeast is not activated unless it is mixed and kneaded into the dough.
Once you work the leaven in, it is still hidden to the eye but how it transforms that loaf! So it is with Christians within human culture! The power within us is the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead (See Romans 8:11)! All we are asked to do is to mix it up. We have to get in the loaf. We must be in the world - where Jesus is - in order to be used to accomplish His ongoing work of redemption.
Leaven that is not used in time spoils and loses its capacity to ferment that dough; it must be active or it becomes useless. That leaven must be in the dough to effect its extraordinary change. So it is with all of us. We must be in the world to effect its transformation. Once hidden in the loaf, leaven always raises the dough. It also takes human effort - it must be kneaded and worked into the loaf.
Faith is a verb, it must be exercised. By living in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world we can help to bring the world back to God. This kind of missionary mindset has inspired great missionary ages in the past and brought extraordinary changes to entire cultures. It can once again! However, it always begins one person, one grain, at a time.
It begins with you and me. We should read those words which Jesus proclaimed in the synagogue and make them our own today: "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."
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