In this Sunday’s Gospel, Luke speaks to us about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and His return to Nazareth, where he grew up. In the synagogue, where everyone knew him, he reads to them from the Prophet Isaiah. After he has read, he sits down and everyone is looking at him. He then says:
“Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus tells the people that his mission as Messiah is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus is the one that the chosen people have been waiting for – He is the Good News. The best thing that can happen for the people has just happened. The kingdom of God is made present to them because Jesus the Word of God is in their midst.
If you continue to read from this Gospel, Chapter 4, you will see that “…all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” They also asked, ‘Isn’t this the son of Joseph?’ And from there, it goes down hill. How can this man, who has been their neighbor, claim to be the Messiah without the proof of miracles?! As we know from other Gospel accounts, even when Jesus does perform miracles and speaks with unheard authority, few put faith in Him. He is the Good News for all time, and is met by rejection – especially by his own people.
The Good News of God may not always seem like Good News to us, either. The Kingdom of God is opposed to the ways of the world. The world and what it has to offer have a powerful attraction on us, more now than ever before because the world is becoming more attractive to our senses and, our appetites keep increasing. Most of what the world has to offer is good, but the challenge is to keep everything its proper place. If God isn’t first in our life, then other things – people or ideas can become an obstacle to recognizing God in our midst.
The truth is: God is in our midst, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. One sign of God’s presence would be the kind of justice and charity present in a community as Jesus reads about from the prophet Isaiah. But even if we don’t recognize God’s presence in the community or people around us, we can humbly invite Christ to dwell within us and then bring his presence to our surroundings.
This is how we can be a light in the world to bring hope to others. It’s a choice we must make.
In recent times non-Catholics have been more effective than Catholics in encouraging people to make a concrete choice for God – which they call being ‘born again.’ About thirteen years ago, as a representative of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, I attended a Billy Graham Rally at the Alamodome. They wanted members of all the local churches to be present because they knew thousands of people would come and they wanted to be sure that as many as possible would be connected to a church.
We were instructed on how to approach people and pray with them as they would come forward after Billy Graham’s message.
Thousands of people did come forward who wanted to be connected to God. We approached them, asked them to commit their lives to God, and then prayed with them. They then filled out a card with their name, address and phone number which was sent to the Church of their choice. We did receive some of those cards at our parish, and I personally know of at least one person who went through RCIA to become Catholic because of that effort.
As Catholics we have been born again, by water and the spirit through Baptism and we have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit which we begin to discover as we mature in the faith. However, the truth is we must make an adult decision to be committed to Christ and to live a faithful relationship with the Holy Trinity. It’s not a one-time thing, but a process of ongoing conversion. As Catholics we are greatly blessed because of the abundant access we have to the grace we need, to live this relationship through the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.
There was a Lutheran minister who said something to the effect:
“The Catholic Church is a sleeping giant, waiting to be awakened.”
If we would awaken and use the gifts God has given us, it would be obvious that the Kingdom of God is at hand.