Third Sunday of Advent
Here is a link to this week’s readings.
At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, he opened the scroll in the synagogue to the passage from Isaiah that we hear today in the first reading:
“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.”
Luke reports slightly different words (cf. Luke 4:18-19), but the passage is the same. Jesus claimed, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21), which caused his own local people to become indignant and angry. Jesus responded with his famous saying, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place” (Luke 4:24). This infuriated the people even more, so much that they intended to kill Jesus: “When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away” (Luke 4:28-30).
Do you think Jesus would be treated any better today? Let’s reimagine the passage with an internal dialogue added in. I think we might recognize that Jesus’ words are just as radical now as they were then. We might be provoked to kill him too! If we don’t recognize that, then we are either blinded to our own sin, individual and social, or we have not taken the radical nature of his words seriously. We have domesticated Jesus. For, the Jesus of the Gospels threatens the social order that makes us feel safe and secure; he threatens our sense of justice; he threatens our sense of who’s in and who’s out. There is a reason he got crucified. It wasn’t because he was always just so nice, making everyone feel good and never rocking the boat! He challenged—and continues to challenge—the social order with the values of the Kingdom of God.
So here’s the internal dialogue for our reflection on this third Sunday of Advent. I’ll use both Isaiah and Luke:
“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me”—Indeed, You are the Son of God!
“because the LORD has anointed me”—Yes, the Christ (So glad I’m not a Jew or a Muslim).
“he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor”—Well the poor are poor because they are lazy, have broken homes, and don’t value education, so let’s not get carried away; and don’t forget the rich and the middle class with Your glad tidings. We earned it after all!
“to heal the brokenhearted”—Yeah, I’m good with that, just not those whose hearts are broken by deportation and having their families split up, or whose hearts are broken by racist violence, or whose hearts are broken by being driven from their own native land.
“to proclaim liberty to the captives”—Let’s not get carried away. They got what they deserve.
“and recovery of sight to the blind”—CONSERVATIVE!! I’ll follow science not your faith healings, thank you very much.
“and release to the prisoners”—LIBERAL!!
“and to let the oppressed go free”—Oh, here we go about “the oppressed!!” Everyone’s a victim nowadays and I’m to blame, right?
“to announce a year of favor from the LORD”—Yes, finally, God favors US!!
“and a day of vindication by our God”—Now we’re talking, smite THEM, Lord!!
“I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian”—Wait, wait, wait!! Charity begins at home. Us first! There is no salvation outside our faith community!! Heretic!! Kill this man!!
As we approach Christmas, it is important to remember why this baby’s life was threatened right from the start. The Kingdom of God threatens every other kingdom, political party, government, and ideology. St. Ignatius of Loyola said there are only two standards, or flags; and ALL our loyalty must be with either Jesus and His Kingdom or with the powers of this world.