Proclaiming liberty to captives…

Last Sunday I was struck, as if by a bolt of lightning, by the meaning of the connection between the Scripture readings that were read at Holy Mass.  Very briefly,  I will summarize the readings:  In the 12th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul describes how all those who have been baptized “in one Spirit…  into one body,” have become members of Christ’s body with different functions (“You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it”).  In the Gospel, Jesus comes to his hometown of Nazareth, enters the synagogue and stands up to read of the scroll. He read the words of Isaiah the prophet, a messianic passage that people longed to see the fulfillment of:

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.

Jesus hands the scroll back and delivers the shortest a homily ever preached,  “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” He manifested Himself as the One to live the words from Isaiah.

Now, we might wonder about the continuation of the mission of the Messiah:  specifically, where is the ministry of Christ today? Are not people still in captivity? To these questions, I ‘heard’ the answer. Those who are baptized into Christ are anointed with the Holy Spirit and are entrusted with the mission of Christ because they are His extensions. We Christians are to proclaim liberty to captives!

I have learned that ignorance is one of the worst types of captivity man can experience. People perish for lack of knowledge. The teachings of the Catholic Church are truly liberating — God’s people need to be taught how to truly live as children of our Father!  In last Sunday’s  first reading, the Israelites have returned from their exile in Babylon and they gather to hear the Law publicly proclaimed— and they weep aloud.  They weep because it was precisely their deviation from the Law that resulted in their exile in the first place!  Today, God’s people are woefully ignorant of His plan for their lives, ignorant of the Truth–in other words, they are in captivity!

Part II

St. Thomas Aquinas was one  who lived Christ by “proclaiming liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind.” He systematically wrote a massive ‘catechism’ or summary of theology called the Summa Theologica. St. Thomas used the gifts of knowledge and wisdom as well as his intelligence in order to make the truth of God known. His feast day was on Wednesday and so I thought of him in connection to the Sunday readings.  There are also, of course, other methods of making the truth known which I will touch upon before ending this post.

Catholics are to make the Truth known to everyone they encounter. Not in a way that badgers or hits someone over the head, but in a way that exemplifies truth in love; by being a good friend, worker, or listener, answering questions well when they are brought up in friendly conversation. In today’s second reading, St. Paul describes what love really is:

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Armed with love and empowered with the spirit of Christ, we proclaim liberty to captives using whatever means we have. Recently, the pope has encouraged priests, as well as young adults and youth, to make use of social communications media such as Facebook and Twitter to make the Truth known to the world!

As so often evidenced, the Truth can be met with opposition. Jesus is the Truth, and he was rejected by his own people as illustrated in today’s Gospel. I mean they wanted to throw him off the cliff in his own hometown! If they persecuted the Master they will persecute the servant. But,  as we are reminded in today’s first reading, God chose us from our mothers wombs, and he has made us fortified cities:

“They will fight against you but not prevail over you,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”

And, He empowers us with grace because without Him we can do nothing… but with him I can do all things. So what is there to be afraid of? Bring glad tidings to the poor!

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