3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C
When prime ministers or presidents take office they make a solemn speech in which they outline their policies, their programs and their plans. Jesus did pretty much the same thing at the start of His ministry.
Today’s Gospel shows Jesus proclaiming the word of God in the synagogue at Nazareth. Jesus reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah, and uses that to tell the world about His mission, about His ministry.
Jesus announces that the long-awaited 'Day of the Lord’ had come at last. Among those listening to Jesus are the Pharisees.
The Pharisees considered themselves to be the most rigid defenders of the Jewish religion and its traditions. Their influence over the people became great and far-reaching and in the course of time, they instead of the priests, became the sources of authority.
Such was their power and prestige that during the time of Our Lord, they sat and taught in “Moses seat” With such authority many of them became arrogant and conceited and this led in many respects to a perversion of the Jewish religion.
Jesus warned the multitudes many times about the Pharisees who laid heavy burdens on people but themselves often never practiced what they preached.
According to the Pharisees, the Day of the Lord as proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah would be a day of judgment. However, according to Jesus, the Day of the Lord would be a day of the Lord's favour, not just for the deserving, but for everyone.
The “Day of the Lord” would be a day of favour for everyone, but especially for the poor and the oppressed.
Who are these poor and oppressed people that Jesus is talking about? The poor and the oppressed are all those who are waiting for liberation.
Liberation from what? Liberation from a life of slavery to sin. Jesus came to set everyone free. And here He proclaims this “Good News”. Jesus invites everyone to repent and believe this good news.
The Good News is that salvation is available to all who want it and this salvation is not achieved through our own merits, but through the goodness of God.
This is the heart of the Good News. 'The only thing to be done is to open our hearts to the Saviour who was sent to bring us salvation and joy.
But, Jesus didn't merely announce the Good News and leave it at that. He came to make it a reality
The root of many wrongs in our world is that there is often a discrepancy between word and deed. There is often a discrepancy between what is said and what is done.
It is shown by what a person preaches as opposed to the way that a person actually lives their life.
This was the chief fault that Jesus found with the Pharisees. The Pharisees often did not practice what they preached.
Mahatma Ghandi was one of the most respected spiritual and political leaders of the 1900’s.
Ghandi helped free the Indian people from British rule through nonviolent resistance and is honoured by the people of India as the father of their nation.
He led by example. “My life is my message” said Mahatma Ghandi. And so it was with Jesus. And so it should be with us.
In the temple that day there were many who believed that Jesus was preaching to the choir. That the bad guys were out there and not in here.
And so it was that in Jesus’ day - Jesus had more trouble with so called good people than He had with those looked upon as sinners.
Why? Well, the hardest people of all to convert are those who see themselves as good people, because like the Pharisees, they don't see any need for conversion.
But is that really true? If it wasn’t true in Jesus’ day – is it really true today? How many today really believe that they are in need of conversion, that they need to repent, that they need to turn away from sin?
You know, it's hard enough to get those who are sick to go to the doctor, but just try getting those who are convinced they are well to go and see a doctor! Almost impossible.
To accept the call for repentance one must have a longing for something better.
There must be a sense that something is wrong, or at least that something is missing in our lives.
The conversion experience begins with the realisation that we are not fully what we could or should be. This realisation is the first stage of a process, the first step of a journey.
To accept and put into action the call to repentance demands openness, honesty, humility, and above all courage — The courage to admit one's guilt, the courage to ask for forgiveness, and the firm resolution to change.
It means a change of heart and a change of life, perhaps even a complete reversal of lifestyle. As such it is bound to be painful. That is why people are slow to embrace it, and just want to be left alone.
People can become so set in their ways, so sunk in a rut, that it's almost impossible to move them.
Some people resent the constant call to conversion believing that the church is too focused on negative things and should concentrate on more positive things.
In fact, true repentance is a very positive thing. It is true that to repent is to admit that all is not well with oneself.
But it is also to discover something wonderful about oneself, namely, that one has a potential which one didn't know one had.
It means acquiring a new vision, taking a new direction, setting oneself more worthwhile goals, living by better values.
In a word, it opens the way to a new life.
Understood like this, repentance is exciting, and always leads to joy.
To repent means to be converted. This is what Jesus is calling everyone to do – repent and believe in the Good News.
Conversion is the starting point of every spiritual journey, and it is a prerequisite for entry into the kingdom of God. The true Christian life is always in a process of continuous conversion.
A true Christian is never satisfied with the status quo. A true Christian is always striving by God’s grace to turn away from sin. A true Christian is always striving by God’s grace to live a better life.
Today the task of preaching the Gospel to the world depends on we who call ourselves Christians. It is a tough job.
But like Jesus, we are given the help of the Holy Spirit. The best way to preach the Gospel is by living a good Christian life.
What kind of Christians are we? Have we been converted? Do we practice what we preach? Have we fully accepted and incorporated the Good News into our lives?
Do we share this Good News with others as we are supposed to do? Are our lives good examples for others?
You know, the only book some people will ever read about the Gospel is the book of our lives.
Therefore we may need to change our lives so that they more properly reflect the call of Jesus.
“Repent and believe the Good News. Love one another as I have loved you.”
We are called to love as Jesus loved. We are called to live a life that shows that we have turned away from sin, that we have been converted. A life that sets an example for others to follow.
Because the only way that the world can come to know that we are Christians is by the love that we show for everyone - not just our friends - but everyone.
The way we live our lives will demonstrate that love. Quite a task, but with the help of God, not impossible for us.
Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Can we really claim this reading as our own?
Deacon Bernie Ouellette