3 Sunday C: Jesus' Mission


3rd Advent C from Padir Neylu

From Catholic Ireland:

Jesua reads the scripture
Michel DeVerteuil General comments
The reflection below is on the second part of the reading – verses 16 to 21 –a story of how Jesus read the Bible and how he wants us his followers to read it (and teach it).


Verses 16-17 and 20-21 explain the method; verses 18 and 19 give the text Jesus read.
As regards the method, we are free to interpret the passage as what happens to the church as a whole or to individual members. The biblical renewal of recent years was a matter of the whole church being handed the Bible (by an assistant) and invited to recognise it being fulfilled today.
We can also interpret the passage as reminding us of what happens when individuals get down to personal Bible meditation. In this case the passage is a living lesson on the lectio divina method.
teaching the wordIf we go as far as drawing wisdom conclusions, we will learn something about how Bible teachers can guide people into experiencing what Jesus did – that their experience is not unique and therefore alienating, but the Bible is fulfilled in them. Good Bible teachers teach people how to recognise in their “today” experience that they are in communion with their ancestors and with all God’s people.
We can interpret “the Bible text” as referring not merely to the Bible but to any ancestral text. The passage then becomes a teaching on good missionary method – the task of the missionary is to “hand” ancestral texts to the people they are sent to, invite them to recognise that they are being “fulfilled” in the church.
The passage also links the method with the content of the Isaiah text. It tells us (as always by appealing to our experience) that Bible reading correctly understood and practiced is an experience of liberation for those who are in any form of captivity – cultural, spiritual or psychological.
experiencing JesusWe must look for experiences which bring this out. In what way has the biblical renewal been an experience of liberation? For the church as a whole? For individuals? It has certainly been liberation from bondage to elitist, colonialist, racist and sexist thinking. To what extent has my Bible reading been a liberating experience for me, or for my community? If it has been, then who is the Bible teacher, spiritual guide, community leader, friend that we want to celebrate?
Prayer reflection“Such is the force and power of the Word that it is the church’s support and strength, imparting robustness to the faith of its daughters and sons and providing food for their souls, a pure and unfailing fount of spiritual life.”  …Vatican II, Dei Verbum
Lord, we thank you for the biblical renewal,
your precious gift to the church in our time.
– Other Christian Churches initiated this great movement of the Spirit;
– it was recognised and welcomed by great popes like Leo XIII and Pius XII,
– and was given further impetus by the Second Vatican Council
with this wonderful document on Divine Revelation.
We pray that a love for your Holy Scripture may continue to grow in your church,
with the Liturgy of the Word as its source and summit,
so that the story of Jesus when he first returned to Nazareth
may be relived each week in church communities all over the world,
wherever your people assemble on the sabbath as they usually do,
in their places of worship – great cathedrals, parish churches
and chapels of religious houses, classrooms, community centers and homes,
or in the open air.
We pray that when celebrants stand up to read
and the book of readings is handed to them
they will open it with the utmost reverence
and accept with humble gratitude whatever text they find written there,
read it clearly and deliberately,
conscious that your Spirit is being given to them and they are being anointed
to transform this ancient writing into good news to the poor,
liberty to captives and new sight to the blind,
to recognise that our modern age, for all its shortcomings, is a time of your favour.
When they have read the word, may they maintain their reverence
as they close the book and hand it back to the assistant,
spend some moments in deep meditation,
aware that the eyes of all are fixed on them, hungering and thirsting for a word of life,
and when eventually the time comes for them to begin to speak
may the present the Bible text not as an abstract message,
a story about the past to be remembered with nostalgia,
an impossible utopia that con only be dreamed of,
but being fulfilled among them even as they are listening.
Within the reality of their daily lives, their pains and their joys,
they will see your glorious story of grace triumphing over sin.
LectorLord, we pray that our church may help men and women of every culture
To unroll the sacred scrolls of their tradition,
Read attentively and reverently what they find written there,
Sit down and meditate deeply on it
And recognise that this text is being fulfilled among them as they listen.
Lord, our Western education system sometimes contradicts the word of your prophets
– brings bad news to the poor telling them that they deserve what they get.
– plunges captives into deeper captivity,
– keeps people blind so that they cannot see the opportunities for grace
in their situations,
-encourages the downtrodden to be resigned to their fate.
We pray that, like Jesus returning to the place where he was brought up
and discovering his calling, so we your church may return to our beginnings,
receive the Spirit you have sent us,
and the anointing with which we have been anointed,
and the oppressed people of our time will hear us proclaim the good news
that they are born to be free and a new year of favour will begin for them.
walk humbly“My cell will be not one of stone or of wood,
but of self-knowledge.”
St Catherine of Siena

Lord, when we find that our reputation has spread throughout the countryside,
do not let us becomes pretentious or lose the sense of who we really are.
Give us the grace to follow in the footsteps of Jesus when he came to Nazara
where he had been brought up
so that we too will discover the truth of ourselves fulfilled in the texts of Scripture.
“In your book all human beings are written.”  … Bruno of Seguin, medieval monk and bishop
Lord, one of the great sufferings of people nowadays is a sense of isolation,
the feeling that we are the first generation to experience our problems;
and one of the great ways we follow in the footsteps of Jesus
is to help one another recognise that the ancient scriptures are fulfilled in us.
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 Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
body of ChristWe are gathered here in the name of Jesus the Lord; he is present among us in the midst of our gathering. We are his people, his body in this world, and we have heard his gospel: good news for the poor, sight for the blind, liberty for all who are enslaved. Let us recall why we follow him and ask pardon for those times when we have not brought joy or enlightenment or peace to our world.


Homily Notes
The sermon/homily/address is very often the least popular part of the liturgy. There are many reasons for this especially when preaching takes place in the context of the Eucharist “here lime is limited and one does not have a pre-selected audience with a particular interest in what might be said on the occasion. However it is also the case that many people have never even thought about why there is a sermon at all. So why do we preach? The answer requires some preaching about preaching.
understanding the word2. The starting point is to look at both the principal readings today: in each of them an earlier text is read,, and then it is converted into a message that makes it something living for all who are there listening. The act of preaching is this act of converting, of translating, of making sense of text in our immediate situation as believers.
3. So we have to ask by what criteria do our audience judge our performance of this task that was once carried out by the prophet Ezra, then by Jesus in Nazareth, and now by ministers across the world? Is it that the sermon is easy to understand? Is it that it is amusing? Is it that it is challenging? Is it that it addressed ‘questions of the day? Is it that it is persuasive? Or is it simply that it is short and not too boring? All of these are used, but they are all limited.
4. Some people can explain difficult matters simply, but the issues of faith are not simple because life is not simple. Simple messages, easily appropriated are usually the work of those who want to bluff us. Propaganda is always simple. An ability to amuse is a gift, but reflection on the meaning of faith in our moment in history is not usually the stuff of entertainment. The sermon itself is not where any challenge to someone should appear: the gospel challenges the sin of the world of sin and the homily is there to help the individual to see any challenge that it might pose to them as individuals or as members of groups. The sermon is exposition rather than a tongue-lashing. There are always questions of the day and urgent’ issues towards which Christians should be directing attention, but at the Sunday Eucharist the normal course of events In that we hear the gospels in sequences and then see what each passage has to say to us. Lastly, persuasion may be the result of the preacher’s work – some people have the gift of being persuasive without looking like salesmen – but if someone is persuaded it is because they have been helped to see what is the Word of God by the preacher, then her or his faith has given them the acceptance of that truth, and God’s help has enabled them to bring it to fruitfulness in their lives.
5. Here is an example: Jesus says that the acceptable year of the Lord has now come. What does this mean? It means that Jesus says that the time for the renewal of the creation is at hand as in one of the special Jubilee Years that were held every fifty years.
Acceptable Year: The year we are made free.
                   Acceptable Year:
            The year we are made free.
On those occasions there was to be a rebalancing of wealth and resources between the rich and the poor, and a re-creation of a just society. This is the gospel message: the Father is not happy with any situation where his gifts given to all are so tied up with one group in his creation that others are suffering and downtrodden. Whether you see this as the truth or not is now a matter for faith: down the centuries there have been Christians who have worked with the poor and who have sought the just distribution of wealth. Others have rejected this and seen it as Christianity nosing into politics. However, it is a matter of whether one believes Jesus is the Son of God or not. And, if one does, then his message is the Word of Life, and one has to ask for the strength to do something about it. However, it is not the sermon that persuades: the sermon has done its job when it points out the significance of the gospel and notes that the situation is still the same: if Jesus enters our community, then It includes interest in poverty, injustice, and hunger for these do not come from the Father, but from us.
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Sean Goan
Gospel 
This Sunday we return to Luke and two extracts from his gospel that are put side by side for a reason. First we read the opening four verses, important because they tell us exactly why Luke undertook this task. He wanted Theophilus and other Gentile (non-Jewish) converts to understand that the message they have come to believe is well founded and truly reflects the message of Jesus. The second passage then brings us to the start of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee when Jesus continues the age old practice of reading from the scriptures. The text is from Isaiah and speaks of the liberating work of God’s anointed one. What is striking is Jesus’ claim that at last this exciting promise of salvation and freedom from oppression is being fulfilled right now in his own life and work.
Jesus reads in public

Reflection
Since the Second Vatican Council much attention has been given to the role of the laity and the recognition of a variety of gifts in the life of the church. What Paul wrote to the Corinthians has played an important part in developing our understanding of our Christian calling and the fact that ‘One Spirit has been given to us all to drink.’ However the Old Testament also points the way towards such an understanding. In the first reading today prominence is given to Nehemiah who was neither a prophet nor a priest but who played a hugely influential role in forming the identity of the Jewish people in the period after their exile. A disgruntled observer once remarked that the role of the laity was to pray up,, pay up and shut up. It would a terrible sin against the Body of Christ if we were to give in to such thinking. The scriptures that are so central to our worship every Sunday certainly give the lie to that message.
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Donal Neary S.J.
Gospel reflections

Faith beyond words
Jesus’ religious beliefs grew on the word of God. Through boyhood and family life, visits to the synagogue and prayer, he heard the word of God. Gradually he knew what it meant. Now was his time to speak that word, and to begin his ministry.
For Mary and Joseph this was a proud moment. They had given their time and love to Jesus’ upbringing and now it would bear fruit. Today parents worry about the faith of their children. They see a different attitude to religion, prayer, morality and many other aspects of life. They wonder did they do their job well.
Much of the culture today goes against God and religion. Parents cannot fight the culture. But they can hand on the best of the gospel by their own faith and by the way they live their lives, by their love and by speaking the truth as they see it. What is handed on in faith is beyond words.

passing the keyTeachers and chaplains play a big role in handing on our faith. The Church owes a huge gratitude to teachers, chaplains, priest and lay, who have held that role in very difficult times over the last forty years.
We are all part of the ‘faith ministry’ of Jesus. By our own prayer we can help a new generation find their way to faith. We hand over worries to the Lord. Prayer gives us the encouragement to support a younger generation in their ways of faith – meditation groups, prayer groups, folk and gospel music Masses, work for and among the poor. God loves our younger generation more than we do!
Lord may my own faith grow deeper by my relationship with you.Help those who search for you, especially the young.
Help us all to find your love in our lives, Amen.

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From the Connections:
THE WORD:

Luke, the author of this year’s cycle of Gospel readings, is a “second generation” Christian.  Greek by birth and physician by profession, he was a traveling companion of Paul, through whom he met Mark and perhaps Peter himself.  He writes his Gospel mainly for Gentiles like himself: for Luke, this Jesus fulfills not only Jewish dreams but every people's hopes for wholeness and holiness.
   
Luke’s Gospel reflects a scientist’s precision in locating dates, places and people; but Luke's Gospel also exhibits an interest in people rather than ideas.  His account celebrates the compassion of Jesus for the outcasts and “second class citizens” of Jewish society, including and especially women.
   
Luke begins his Gospel in the classic Greek historical style by personally (he is the only one of the four evangelists who ever refers to himself in the first person) assuring his readers (addressed in the singular “Theophilus,” Greek for “friend of God”) of the historical accuracy and theological authenticity of the research he has gathered to assemble this story.
   
According to Luke’s account, Jesus begins his teaching ministry in Galilee.  Galilee – a name which comes from the Hebrew word for circle – was a great agricultural region encircled by non-Jewish nations and cultures, thereby earning a reputation for being the most progressive and least conservative area of Palestine.  A teacher with a “new” message such as this Rabbi Jesus would be expected to receive a favorable hearing in the openness of Galilean society.
   
Jesus returns to his hometown, the Galilean city of Nazareth.  Nazareth was a city of great importance in Israel’s history and economy, located on the major routes to Jerusalem, Alexandria and Damascus.  In the Nazareth synagogue (the places where local Jewish communities outside of Jerusalem would gather for teaching and prayer), Jesus announces, using the words of the prophet Isaiah, the fulfillment of God's promise of a Messiah for Israel.

HOMILY POINTS:
Today we hear in the opening words of Luke’s Gospel his reason for compiling his Gospel.  He writes for Theophilus “so that [you] may see how reliable the instruction you have received.”  This story of Jesus who comes to “proclaim glad tidings to the poor . . . to announce a year of favor from the Lord” should make a profound difference in the lives of all who hear it.  In his humanity, Jesus reveals a God who is approachable and present to us in all that is good and right and loving around us.
While Israel longed for a Messiah who would lead them to victory and vindication, Jesus the Messiah comes with a much different message of humility, reconciliation, compassion and forgiveness.  The “good news” of the Gospel calls to become rather than to shun, to lift up rather than condemn, to seek the humble of way servanthood rather than the satisfaction of self-righteousness.
In the Father’s Son, Isaiah’s vision of a world transformed and reconciled in God’s peace and justice is fulfilled; in God’s Christ, God re-creates us and our world in the light of grace and the spirit of compassion.  In baptism, we take on the work of “fulfilling” Isaiah’s vision of healing, justice and reconcilliation in our own “civilizations.”
We make Isaiah’s vision a reality in our own Nazareths in every act of hope we make happen, in every kindness prompted by God’s grace.  As witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, as baptized disciples of his church, we inherit the Spirit’s call to “bring glad tidings” and “proclaim the Lord’s favor” to the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, the oppressed and the helpless.

‘We do cancer . . . ’
Richard was a widower; his wife had suffered a long and painful death from cancer.  Then he met Celia; they came to love each other and each other’s children dearly.   
Less than a year into their courtship, Celia discovered a lump in her breast.  She had gone to the doctor alone and was alone when she received the devastating news: the lump was malignant.
Once the reality set it in, her first thought was for Richard and his children.  They had been profoundly wounded by cancer only a few years before.  They were still healing from it.  How could she bring this terrible thing into their lives again?
She called Richard immediately and, without telling him why, simply broke off their relationship.  For several weeks she refused his phone calls and returned his letters.  But Richard would not give up and begged her to see him.
Finally, Celia relented and arranged to meet him to say goodbye.  When they met, she could see the deep strain and hurt on his face.  Richard gently asked Celia why she had broken up with him.  Finally, on the verge of tears, she told Richard the truth: that she had found a lump in her breast, that it was malignant, that she had undergone surgery a few weeks before and would begin chemotherapy the following week.
“You and the children have lived through this once already,” she told him, “I won't put you through it again.”
He looked at her, his jaw dropping.  “You have cancer?” he asked.  Dumbly, she nodded, the tears beginning to run down her cheeks.
“Oh, Celia,” he said -- and began to laugh with relief.  “We can do cancer . . . we know how to do cancer.  I thought that you didn't love me.”
Oh, but she did.  And they got through it together, happily married.
[From My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.]

The Gospel of compassion and reconciliation is “fulfilled” every time we imitate the selfless giving of Jesus.  Whether we can “do cancer,” whether we know how to comfort and listen and console, whether we can make a soup kitchen or a tutoring program work, we make Isaiah's vision a reality in our own Nazareths.  As witnesses of Christ's resurrection, as baptized disciples of his church, we inherit the Spirit’s call to “bring glad tidings” and “proclaim the Lord’s favor” to the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, the oppressed and the helpless.  Whatever gifts and graces we possess can work great and wondrous things when done in the Spirit of God.
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From Fr. Jude Botelho:

This passage narrates an extremely important event: the reconstituting of the people of Israel after their return from exile. It was a new beginning for Israel. The law-centred religion, Judaism, began with that solemn convocation recounted in today’s reading. The Law was read and explained to them. Ezra, the priest, who reads from the Book of the Law, is entrusted with ‘giving the sense’ in order that the people understand and obey God’s word contained in the Law. The people raise their hands and cry out, “Amen! Amen!” indicating their acceptance of the Law. This scene resembles the first part of our Eucharist, called the liturgy of the word where scripture is read and explained to elicit our response to God.

Observing the spirit or letter of the Law?
Under the blue laws of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Puritans administered religion to unwilling subjects by means of the whipping post, the ducking stool, the stocks, the fines, and prison. Mrs. Alice Morse Earle’s history, The Sabbath in Puritan New England has such examples: ‘Two lovers, John Lewis and Sarah Chapman, were accused and tried for sitting together on the Lord’s Day under an apple tree. A Dunstable soldier, for wetting a piece of old hat to put on his shoe to protect his foot, was fined forty shillings for doing this heavy work. Captain Kemble of Boston in 1656 was put in public stocks for two hours for his ‘lewd and unseemingly behaviour’ which consisted of kissing his wife in public on the Sabbath on the doorstep of his house after his return from a three-year voyage. A man who had fallen into the water who absented himself from church to dry his only suit of clothes was found guilty and publicly whipped.’ -Was the law made for man or man for the law?
Anthony Castle in ‘More Quotes and Anecdotes’


In today’s gospel we see Jesus who has a message to preach and a way of life to live, returning to Nazareth and entering the synagogue as he usually did. The onlookers were concerned that being at home and being in the synagogue there would be none of the normal excitement and stir that usually followed him wherever he went. What happened probably went over the heads of most people who were not familiar with the words of the prophets. Isaiah had stated very clearly to them the signs which would show when the Messiah had come. Jesus read that passage and announced “Today this passage is being fulfilled in your hearing.” Very bluntly and openly he was declaring that the Messianic times had begun, that he had arrived, he had come to replace the old law with the new law of love. This was the beginning of the end for Jesus and that end would just be the beginning! Even today, as we read and proclaim the Gospel, His words are being fulfilled. The words of Jesus are anointed by the Spirit and when these words enter the heart, the Spirit enters with them. If we are anointed by the Spirit we will listen with openness to what the Lord wants to say to us today. God will not disappoint us, His word is always fulfilled when we believe and listen with faith. If we don’t expect to hear something that will profoundly affect our lives, we will not hear it. In the beginning of the Gospel we read that everyone who heard him was pleased with his teaching but later, when they found his words hard-hitting and confronting, their attitude changed and they closed their ears and rejected his teaching. The words of Isaiah, quoted by Jesus today are central to his mission. We know who Jesus is by the way he revealed his identity by his actions. We know whether we are disciples of Jesus by the way we let his words influence our lives.

Today the Good News is being fulfilled!
If someone from Mars arrived here today, and asked ‘Are you Christians or will I have to look elsewhere?’ Could we quote the words of today’s gospel and ask him to look around, and see for himself? The Old Testament is like radio, the New Testament is like television, and the life of Christians should be live drama. The value of Christianity lies in its witnesses. You write a new page of the gospel each day, by the things that you do, and the words that you say. People read what you write, whether faithful or true. What is the gospel according to you? Jesus came to do and to teach. In other words, he did the thing himself first, and then he taught his disciples to follow his example. A good example of this was when he washed their feet at the Last Supper. You and I are asked to live the gospel. You may be the only gospel someone will ever read; they may never buy the book.
Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the gospel truth’


Inaugural Address
When U. S. Presidents are sworn into office it is customary for them to deliver inaugural speeches. These addresses usually outline the challenges which face them and the ideals by which they will try to govern. Such inaugural speeches are more often remembered, however, for their inspirational sayings. We recall, for example, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words in 1933: “This great nation will endure as it has endured. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” John F. Kennedy’s exhortation in 1961 is equally memorable: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” More recently, we call to mind Ronald Reagan’s American Song theme in 1985: “hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic – daring, decent and fair. That’s our heritage, that’s our song… we raise our voices to the God who is the author of this most tender music.” -Today’s gospel reads somewhat like one of these presidential inaugural addresses. Jesus had already been appointed officially by his Father to his office as Messiah when he was baptized. He now begins his teaching ministry by standing up in public in a synagogue and making his inaugural address. In his speech he quotes the prophet Isaiah to outline the challenges facing him: ‘He will bring glad tidings to the poor and proclaim liberty to captives; he will restore sight to the blind and free the imprisoned.’ Then he makes the dramatic and daring declaration that all this is happening right then and right there: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’


Life is an echo
A man pulled up at a filling station one day to get some petrol. He asked the young lad attending the pumps ‘What are the people in this next village like?’ To his surprise, the young lad asked him what the people in the last village in which he had stopped were like. The man replied ‘Oh, they were very nice, friendly, and most helpful.’ ‘Well, then,’ replied the lad ‘you’ll find that the people in the next village will be the same.’ The next man who stopped at the filling station asked the very same question. Once again, the young lad asked him how he found the people were in the last village in which he had stopped. ‘Oh, they were sour and unfriendly’ came the reply. ‘In that case, you’ll find the people in the next village will be just the same.’ -Even if Jesus speaks, nothing happens unless the listeners are prepared to listen…..
Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel Truth!’


The Courage to Change
In November of 1984 on one of his PBS Late Night America Shows, Dennis Wholey confessed that he was an alcoholic. He went on to describe a book he had put together entitled The Courage to Change: Personal Conversations about Alcoholism with Dennis Wholey. The book contains frank and revealing conversations with a wide variety of celebrity alcoholics such as rock singer Grace Slick, baseball player Bob Welch, actor Jason Roberts, comedian Shecky Greene and catholic priest Vaughan Quinn. Also, there are heartfelt conversations with Rod Steiger and Jerry Falwell, who are children of alcoholics; and Sybil Carter, whose husband Billy is an alcoholic. Four years earlier, Dennis Wholey confronted his own problem with alcohol and now is on a mission with his book to help other victims of what is sometimes called “the most treatable untreated disease in this country.” Dennis Wholey’s message about The Courage to Change matches our Lord’s message in Mark’s gospel: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the good news.”
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’


Homeland
Edgar Reitz, the German film director, tells the story of how he went home with a friend to visit his mother and while they were there his mother told a story he had never heard before. The story was of a man from their town who had left his house one day saying he was going up the road to the local inn for a drink. But he never returned home, and no one ever heard of him again. Reitz was intrigued by the story because he was interested in what would make someone leave home without telling anyone, and what would keep him from ever coming back. He was interested in what makes people leave the place they belong to, and what makes some of them come back. Why do some people leave home never to return? Reitz decided to make a film on the theme. He has called it Heimat, which means “homeland”, and it lasts for 15 hours and 36 minutes! The film is a chronicle of one family and one small village in Germany from 1919 until 1982. One of its many appeals is how it depicts the great sense of belonging the people have in the small village of Schabbach when they are born into a place their family have lived for generations. They are born into a particular memory, they are able to call on all this, which gives them a sense of belonging, and a hold over their identity. No matter how far people travel from home perhaps there is always some hope that they can go back. In today’s Gospel Jesus returns to Nazareth where he has been brought up, the place which gives him the identity of Jesus of Nazareth.
Dennis McBride in ‘Seasons of the Word’


Actions speak louder than words!
I once read about an elderly lady in London who had just crossed the street, when a man walked up to her and said politely, “Excuse me ma’am, but I must thank you.” Taken aback, the lady said, “Thank me! For what, may I ask?” “Ma’am” he explained, “I used to be a bus conductor and you were often on my bus. Every time I issued you a ticket, you’d greet me with a cheerful smile and a friendly ‘Good morning.” I knew at once that it came from something within. Seeing a little Bible in your hands one morning, I said to myself, “That’s where it comes from!” So I bought myself a Bible, and I found Jesus –thanks to you ma’am.” With that he doffed his hat and walked away. The dear old lady was astonished and deeply touched - May His word speak through our deeds!
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From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

 

1: Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero’s “option for the poor.”

 

Speaking in the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus used Isaiah’s prophetic terms, long since seen as referring to the coming Messiah, to describe his own mission.  Jesus said he had been sent, among other reasons, “to bring Good News to the poor." The success of Jesus’ mission, particularly with the poor who had no political power except that conferred by their sheer numbers, made Jesus a “dangerous” person to the religious authorities of Israel and eventually resulted in his crucifixion.   The Christian Gospel is still dangerous when its truth is really put into practice.  This is clearly seen in the case of Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero, who was murdered when, like Jesus, he reminded people of the needs of the poor and the oppressed in El Salvador.   The story begins in 1979 when a young priest, Father Grande, was shot and killed on the streets of El Salvador.  His "crime" was that he spoke out against the government, which brutally suppressed all forms of protests and executed thousands of innocent people using its notorious “Death Squads.” When Fr. Grande's great friend, Bishop Oscar Romero, was chosen to be the new Archbishop, the authorities thought he would keep quiet on the question of the oppressed poor in that country. Instead, Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero became an outspoken defender of the poor and a critic of the state-supported “Death Squads.” To honor the memory of his martyred friend, Romero refused to appear in any public ceremonies sponsored by the army or the government. He soon became the voice and conscience of El Salvador.  His words and actions were reported throughout the whole world, so that everybody knew the atrocities happening in El Salvador.   Romero’s fight for human rights led to his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.  On March 24, 1980, at 6:25 PM, as the Archbishop was offering Mass in a hospital Chapel, a shot from the back of the Church struck him in the chest, killing him instantly.  Thus, Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero died a martyr for the Gospel of Christ.  As we reflect today on Jesus' words about his mission, let us remember Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero and continue to strive to live out faithfully, in our world and in our daily lives, the “dangerous” truths of the “Good News” which is Jesus’ gift to us today.

 

#2: "Don't you want to be free?”

 

In his book Ghost Soldiers, Hampton Sides tells the story of a dramatic mission during World War II. On January 28th, 1945, 121 hand-selected Army Rangers slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines in an attempt to rescue 513 American and British POW's who had spent three years in a hellish prison camp near the city of Cabanatuan. Hampton Sides describes the first effects of liberation as chaos and fear. The prisoners were mentally too brittle to understand what was taking place. Some even scurried away from their liberators. One particular prisoner, Bert Bank, refused to budge, even when a Ranger walked right up to him and tugged his arm. "C'mon, we're here to save you," he said. "Run for the gate." Bank still would not move. The Ranger looked into his eyes and saw they were vacant, registering nothing.” “What’s wrong with you?" he asked. "Don't you want to be free?" Finally, a smile formed on Bank's lips as the meaning of the words became clear, and he reached up to the outstretched hand of the Ranger. The Rangers searched all the barracks for additional prisoners, then shouted, "The Americans are leaving. Is there anybody here?" Hearing no answer, they left. The freed prisoners marched 25 miles and boarded their ship home. With each step, their stunned disbelief gave way to soaring optimism. In today’s Gospel, Jesus presents to his fellow-townsmen his mission of bringing them God’s saving freedom, to their great astonishment and, for some, their disbelief.

 

# 3: Liberation theology:

 

A woman in Nicaragua gets eleven cents for sewing together a pair of blue jeans that are sold by an American company for $14.95. That company made $566 million in profits on those jeans in one year. One out of every five Ugandan children will not live to age five because they do not have simple, primary health care. That is not just in Nicaragua. This is not just in Uganda. There are hurts to heal in our cities. There are poor people here. There are homeless people here. There are addicted people here. There are lonely people here. There are oppressed and captive people here. There are hurts that need to be healed! And you ask, "What can I do? Is there anything I can do? Can I be one who stands in the gap between the way things are and the way things can be? Can I be a bridge over which other people can travel in that journey from the way things are and the way things can be?"

 

 #4 U. S. Presidents' inaugural speeches:


On Jan 21, 2013, Americans heard the inaugural speech of Barak Obama, opening his second term as the 44th president of the United States. You may not know this, but every single Inaugural Address from George Washington's to Barak Obama’s has been preserved. In these speeches, presidents have laid out for the country their dreams, goals, and aspirations.


Here is a part of the first president George Washington’s speech (April 30, 1789), when he bravely acknowledged the role of God in his administration: He said, “It would be improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being Who rules over the universe, Who presides in the councils of nations, and Whose providential aids can supply every human defect.” Franklin Roosevelt said on March 4, 1933, “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Americans remember the role of citizens outlined in President John F. Kennedy’s speech (January 20, 1961), “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” No doubt you were able to identify several of the presidents by the historical references or by the famous lines, and while all of these Inaugural Addresses are important, some are moving, inspiring and worthy of remembrance. Today in the gospel of Luke chapter 4, we have listened to an inaugural address delivered not to a Nation but to a synagogue congregation; not in an American city but in a poor village, Nazareth, in Galilee; and not by a man elected by the power of the people but by the God-man Jesus, anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus outlines his mission, vision and dreams in this famous  speech.
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ILLUSTRATIONS: From Sermons.com

 

In the church, most of us think of Epiphany simply as a season on the church calendar, and sometimes as a season we don't understand too well. We may recall that we are celebrating particularly the revealing of Christ to the Gentile world, via the Wise Men, but not much more. The dictionary, however, adds further dimension to the word, listen: "a sudden, intuitive perception ... into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience." That definition applies in a profound and unique way to our Lord Jesus Christ. We have good reason to write his Epiphany with a capital "E" because it is not only a special day on the calendar, but a revealing which sets the pattern for all other revealings.  

 

True to the literary definition of the term, Jesus brought perception "into the reality or essential meaning." He stripped the superficial away from life and the artificial from religion. What we need, he told Nicodemus is a new birth: not just a reformation or higher resolves, but an utterly new start. To the woman of Samaria he prescribed water which would satisfy the deep, eternal thirst. For the rich young ruler, he commanded a whole new set of values, a change which the man, unfortunately, was unwilling to make.  

 

But in every case, Jesus went below the surface -- down to reality...  

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It is customary for politicians to launch political campaigns in their hometowns.  Hometown is supposedly where your most fervent supporters are. Jesus launched his public ministry in his hometown of Nazareth, a town of about 20,000. It was there he had grown up, played with friends, worshipped in the synagogue, and assisted his father around the carpenter shop. We think that father Joseph died when Jesus was perhaps in his late teens. Thereafter, Jesus as eldest son took over the carpenter shop and earned a living for his family. He was a member of the Nazareth Chamber of Commerce, so to speak. So, it was natural that at the age of 30 Jesus would officially launch his ministry as God's representative right in his hometown. Jesus was invited to be the guest speaker in the local synagogue.  

 

At first things went well. Everybody whispered about how smoothly and graciously he spoke. But then the bubble burst. He had not consulted any political experts about what to say, and his political correctness was at least a quart low. He told them the hard, unvarnished truth, and then the homecoming turned into a disaster. So enraged were the people over what he said that they wanted to kill him. Verses 28 through 30 tell us that they forced him out of the synagogue to the edge of a cliff on the southeastern side of Nazareth. They were about ready to toss him over the cliff. But then mysteriously he turned and walked through them and left Nazareth for good. How did Jesus do that? How did he escape? I think I know. It was his moral authority.  

 

Do you remember the old western movies when the sheriff is holding a prisoner in jail and a mob wants to lynch him? The mob comes to the jail and the sheriff meets them out front. The sheriff picks out who he thinks is the ringleader and says, "John, you and this crowd are playing with fire. You're angry and you're letting your anger tempt you to take the law into your own hands. Now, you better calm down right now and go on home. That man inside is my prisoner, and will be tried in a proper way. Before you can touch him, you're going to have to come over me." You remember how the scene ends. The mob grumbles a lot but gradually goes away, the wisest and oldest departing first. What stopped them? The moral authority of a brave man. Jesus' moral authority was his only means of escape. 

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Tell the Cats to Turn Around

 

We despise people who challenge our cherished myths and kick us out of our comfort zones. The truth is that when Jesus sets about the task of saving us, he has to heal us of any myth or prejudice that is contrary to the spirit of Christ. Billy Sunday was the Billy Graham of a previous generation. He was conducting a crusade in a particular city. In one of his sermons he said something critical of the labor conditions for workers in that area. After the service, several prominent businessmen sent a message to him by one of the local pastors. The message was this---Billy, leave labor matters alone. Concentrate on getting people saved. Stay away from political issues. You're rubbing the fur the wrong way." Billy Sunday sent this message back to them: "If I'm rubbing the fur the wrong way, tell the cats to turn around."

 

Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, Sermons.com

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Moving the Margins 

 

Jesus lived on the margins and moved the margins to include all people, and hence invited hostile crowds to want to edge him out of existence. Today the church wants to edge Jesus out of our worship anytime the margins are made too wide and include too many who are not like us. Recently I was sitting at my computer, contemplating the way Jesus offended so many people so quickly in his ministry. I asked, "Why?" The answer was at the top of my screen. My word processing instructions at the top read: "Drag the margin boundaries on the rulers." That is why he upset people so much: in his life he dragged the margin boundaries of race, creed, and color to include all people. He dragged the margin boundaries when he gave a common meal, which we have made a holy meal symbolic of his inclusive love for all people. Jesus is dragged to the edge of a cliff to be put out of the lives of his townspeople because no one wants the margins of daily living to be inclusive of strangers. 

 

Richard W. Wing, Deep Joy for a Shallow World, CSS Publishing Company

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Preaching at Home

 

I want to let you in on an industry secret. Ready? Most preachers have a difficult time preaching in the congregations where they grew up. It is true for me. I was recently invited to preach in the church where I grew up. My mixed feelings about the invitation were justified. Before anybody heard a word I said, they remembered little Billy Carter, who made paper airplanes out of worship bulletins and dropped them from the balcony when nobody was looking. Even the newcomers who joined long after I moved away had been indoctrinated. They knew members of my family, and that became the filter through which they heard the content of my sermon. Before that congregation heard me, they already knew me....

 

It is difficult for a preacher to go back home. Everybody knows you. That is the problem. Of all the sayings of Jesus, one of the few things he said that appears in all four gospels is that a prophet gets no respect in a prophet's hometown. To put it another way, "You become an expert only after you move more than ten miles from home."

 

William G. Carter, Praying for a Whole New World, CSS Publishing Company

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 Joseph's Kid? 

 

Based on verse 22, it appears there was immediately a double-reaction: some were amazed and part of their amazement at his "gracious" speech gets expressed in the line "Isn't this Joseph's son?" But that question seems to cut two ways, and Jesus' subsequent words indicate his awareness of this. The question "Isn't this Joseph's son" CAN be a source of genuine wonder and appreciation-look how far our local boy has come! But it's not difficult to see that the same question could be asked with a real edge to it, with a sneer, with derision. "Joseph's kid? Good grief. He was a nobody back in the day and he's a nobody from a no-account family now. Forget him!"

 

Jesus then goes on to suggest that maybe those very detractors in the crowd that day would be asking him shortly for an authenticating sign. Although we have not as of yet been told directly by Luke of any particular work Jesus did in Capernaum, apparently he's been there and done some amazing things. But Jesus is no trained dog or dancing bear and he makes clear he's not going to do any such thing in Nazareth. Worse, he inflames people still more by saying that with the attitudes some were harboring in their hearts at that very moment, the Nazareth populace was not worthy of a divine working. Instead, as in the feckless, sub-spiritual days of Elijah and Elisha, God would work his wonders elsewhere, outside Israel.

 

Scott Hoezee, comments and observations on Luke 4:21-30._

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On the Way to the Cross 

 

When God's light shines on the way of the cross, you and I are invited to see both the stretch of God's grace and the truth of our own disobedience. Here so early in Luke's Gospel, the Lord's encounter with humanity's self-righteousness and preoccupation with the hometown attitude, it is already driving him to the cross. Before the healings and the teaching and the miraculous catch of fish, before Mary and Martha, and the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son and Zacchaeus, before the rich man who was told to sell everything and give it to the poor and the poor widow who put in everything she had, before all of that, Jesus was on his way to the cross. Before Luke makes it abundantly clear that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would reach into "all the living that you have", Jesus was well on his way.  

It's that reach that causes us to squirm, or to keep a safe distance, or to run away. The Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall remembers that Paul Scherer, a great preacher of the past, used to point out that in the New Testament the kingdom of heaven and the life of discipleship is so often described as a great feast, a bounteous banquet. But then that preacher reminds the hearers of the irony that everyone was trying stay away from that feast. Or as Hall himself then wonders, how is it that the theology of "megachurchianity" in our culture assumes that everyone has this strong compulsion to "get as close to Jesus as possible?" To draw near to this Jesus is to encounter the Gospel that confronts and convicts and threatens. And you and I find our place somewhere in Luke's crowd, because if we're honest, the Gospel of Jesus Christ hits too close to home, to the hometown crowd. "They got up, drove him out of town and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff....but Jesus went on his way." 

David Davis
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Reminding Us of What We Already Know 

When I began my work as a preacher, I spent a lot of time poking around the pages of Scripture for something unusual. My only objective was to find something that would prompt me to say, "This will get them." I would find something in the book of Obadiah and preach on it, murmuring, "I'll bet they have never heard this before." I was right; they had never heard it before. As a result, it had no power. No authority. No sense of importance or urgency. 

 

Once in a while, I would give in and turn to a text that everybody had heard before. At coffee hour, folks would say, "Whew! You really gave it to us today!" Little by little, it began to dawn on me: The power of the prophetic word does not come from roaming a far country where no one has gone before. The real power of the gospel comes from reminding the people of God of what they already know. 

 

William G. Carter, Praying for a Whole New World, CSS Publishing Company

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 The Word

 The Sanford Hotel in San Francisco reports that it never lost a single Bible in the 15 years it placed them at the bedside as a service to the guests. But, in one month after it started putting dictionaries in the rooms as well, 41 dictionaries disappeared. Now, I don't know whether you can draw a solid conclusion from that, but on the surface, it seems obvious that persons apparently place a greater value on human words than they do the Word of God. 

 

So, there are words and The Word. Of course, the Bible is the Word above all other words. But we go even further than that in the Christian faith. Jesus is the Word -- the Word become flesh -- and by the Word that He is, we assess all other words including the Bible. 

 

We could have spent the entire sermon talking about the message that Jesus read from Isaiah when He took up the book in the temple. 

 

Maxie Dunnam, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com

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Fear of the Cure

 

In order for Jesus to heal us, He must first expose our sins, prejudices, and myths. That process is not pleasant. It made the folks in Nazareth fighting mad. In order for Jesus to heal them, he had to challenge some of their cherished myths and prejudices.


When I was a boy of 7 or 8, I was running through a neighbor's yard one day and stepped on a sling blade. Today's children don't know what a sling blade is, but it was an ancient grass-cutting instrument. My foot was cut rather deeply. I ran and hid. Why? Because I had heard that in such cases a doctor would stitch up the wound, and nothing sounded more dreadful to me than having somebody sticking a needle and thread into me repeatedly like I was a piece of cloth. Fortunately, one of my loud-mouthed friends told my mother and I was discovered. To my great relief the doctor did not stitch me up, though he probably should have. My fear of the cure was for me much worse than my wound. We want the cure that Jesus brings. We want Jesus to forgive and save us, but not to make us change, especially if the changes hurt. We are like the little boy whose bedtime prayer sounded like this, "Dear Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am." 
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1. The story is told of a Franciscan monk in Australia assigned to be the guide and "gofer" to Mother Teresa when she visited New South Wales. Thrilled and excited at the prospect of being so close to this great woman, he dreamed of how much he would learn from her and what they would talk about. But during her visit, he became frustrated. Although he was constantly near her, the friar never had the opportunity to say one word to Mother Teresa. There were always other people for her to meet.

Finally, her tour was over, and she was due to fly to New Guinea. In desperation, the Franciscan friar spoke to Mother Teresa: If I pay my own fare to New Guinea, can I sit next to you on the plane so I can talk to you and learn from you? Mother Teresa looked at him. "You have enough money to pay airfare to New Guinea?" she asked.

Yes, he replied eagerly. "Then give that money to the poor," she said. "You'll learn more from that than anything I can tell you." Mother Teresa understood that Jesus' ministry was to the poor and she made it hers as well. She knew that they more than anyone else needed good news.

On a Saturday morning, in Nazareth, the town gathered in the synagogue to listen to Jesus read and teach. It was no big surprise. He was well known in the area; it was his hometown. He was raised there. They wanted to learn from him. So when he read from the Isaiah scroll, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor" everyone understood these words to be the words of Isaiah. It is how that prophet from long ago defined his ministry.

When Jesus finished that reading he handed the scroll to the attendant and sat down. In that day you sat in the Moses Seat to teach to the people. Today preachers stand in a pulpit. So all eyes were on Jesus, waiting for him to begin his teaching...
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2. "Antiques" and "collectibles" have value because they have survived intact for a long period of time. With the exception of those few things that are made of gold or silver or precious gemstones, the value in most "old stuff" is mostly found in the simple fact that they are still around. Except for the ravages of the plagues like the Black Death pandemic, which killed between 75 million and 200 million people, the biggest and most frequent destructive force in civilization has always been fire.
Alexandria burned.
Rome burned.
Paris burned.
London burned.
Washington D.C. burned.
Chicago burned.
San Francisco burned.  
For "stuff" to survive these infernos was no small feat. And it makes them valuable. 
Then there is the human factor.
Is there anyone who doesn't have this shuddering memory: you're drying a dish, moving a knickknack, or blundering into a piece of furniture -- and suddenly it happens: you watch almost in slow motion as some precious bit of china, some heirloom brick-a-brac, some priceless treasure goes sliding into the abyss. As it slipped from your hands or went sliding off the table, you knew what was about to happen, but were helpless to stop it. Gravity doesn't negotiate. Crash! In an instant a treasured family heirloom is reduced to pathetic pieces.
In today's throwaway culture of planned obsolescence, with instantly outdated plastic and cardboard, "broken stuff" gets routed to the "round file" (the trash can) as quickly as last year's electronics. Artisans of restorations and repair craftsmen are increasingly hard to find. Unless whatever has been damaged was extremely valuable, it is usually not worth the investment to fix it.
Thankfully that has not always been the case...
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3. He Came to Help Us See 
Besides freeing us from fear and guilt, Jesus came to help us see. He wasn't talking about physical blindness, but rather, spiritual blindness. We can't see because we are trapped by habits, addictions and illusions of happiness. Therefore we are trapped, oppressed by our own choices and situations. Some of us are in denial. Others of us are reinforced through the enabling of other people. Consequently, we are not free.

One night a tiger trainer was performing at a circus. He went into the cage with the tigers and a huge hush came over the crowd as the doors were locked behind him. Skillfully, the trainer put the tigers though their routine, entertaining the crowd. But, suddenly there was a "pop" and the all the lights went out under the big top.

The trainer was locked inside the cage with the tigers in complete darkness. They could see him with their night vision, but he could not see them. All he had was a chair and a whip for protection. Finally the lights came back on and the trainer finished his performance.

Later in a TV interview, the trainer admitted how scared he was. Then he realized that the tigers did not know that he could not see them. "I just cracked my whip and talked to them," he said, "until the lights came on." (from "Tigers in the Dark," God's Little Lessons on Life for Dad, Honor Books)

Keith Wagner, Liberated and Free
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 4. Fulfilling Others?
And the marvel is this: Jesus somehow fits the void in all the far flung instances of human longing. When medieval European artists painted the Holy Family, they usually painted them with typical German, Italian, or Flemish features. It was not imagination or prejudice which made them do so, but the instinctive feeling that Jesus belonged to them; he was one of their people. In our time, Christian artists in Africa and Asia paint the Holy Family with features and coloring appropriate to their world. Again, it is because they feel that Jesus belongs to them.

The mountain church, where a duet twangs out country-western music on a guitar, may seem to have little in common with a Bach rendition from a four-manual organ; but each is seeking to show its adoration of Jesus in its own best way. Here is the common bond between a ghetto storefront church and the massive Gothic structure some miles away: they both bear the name of Jesus Christ; and they each seek, in their own way and setting, to fulfill the human longing. What about you and me? What is the longing in our lives which Christ has filled? "Today," Jesus said, "this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." For you, for me? To what degree are we in the business of fulfilling the scripture in the lives of others?
J. Ellsworth Kalas, Sermons on the Gospel Readings
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5. Hope 
Do you remember the story of Pandora's Box in Greek Mythology? The lovely Pandora was sent by Zeus to be the bride of Epimetheus. One of Pandora's more endearing charms was her curiosity, but that quality also proved to nearly be her undoing. One day Mercury, the messenger, sent a box to the young couple. It was meant for them to enjoy, but under no circumstances were they to open it. Well, of course, it is the old story of the forbidden fruit. Told that she could not do it, it became the thing that she desired to do the most. So one day she pried it open and peeked inside. Suddenly out flew swarms of insects that began attacking them. Both lovers were stung with the poison of suspicion, hatred, fear and malice. Now the once happy couple began to argue. Epimetheus became bitter and Pandora wept with a broken heart. But in the midst of the quarreling, they heard a tiny voice cry out: Let me out, to sooth your pain. Fearfully they opened the box again, and this time a beautiful butterfly flew out. It touched the couple and miraculously their pain was healed and they were happy again. The butterfly we are told was hope. It is hope that sustains us; it is hope that sooths our pain.
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6. Called to Action 
At Christmas I received as a gift the book, Holy Sweat, by Tim Hansel. I enjoyed it very much. He tells of a guest preacher in a rather large church who began, "There are three points to my sermon." Most people yawned at the point. They'd heard that many times before. But he went on. "My first point is this. At this time there are approximately two billion people starving to death in the world." The reaction through the congregation was about the same, since they'd heard that sort of statement many times before, too. And then he said, "My second point..."
Everybody sat up. Only 10 or 15 seconds had passed, and he was already on his second point? He paused, then said, "My second point is that most of you don't give a damn!" He paused again as gasps and rumblings flowed across the congregation, and then said:
"And my third point is that the real tragedy among Christians today is that many of you are now more concerned that I said 'damn' than you are that I said two billion people are starving to death." Then he sat down.
The whole sermon took less than a minute, but it is in many ways one of the most powerful ones ever given. He was reminding us we are called not to mere piety but to genuine morality. We are called to action, not to fancy words. Jesus preached a short sermon. But what a sermon! He clearly denotes the kind of ministry he came to pursue. It is to be a ministry to the poor and outcast, the blind and unaffirmed. 
James T. Garrett, God's Gift 
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7. Love Is an Action 
Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. "I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me." 
Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan "Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you've convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you're getting a divorce. That will really hurt him." With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, "Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!" And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting "as if." For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn't return, Crane called. "Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?"
"Divorce?" she exclaimed. "Never! I discovered I really do love him." Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds.
J. Allan Petersen  
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 8. Act As If You Do Love
 In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less."
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity  
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9. The Opening Moments of Jesus' Ministry 
Every four years the new president of the United States gives his inaugural address. In it, he articulates his program or his plan of action for his term of office. See if you recognize the President who made the following remarks:

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." - Abraham Lincoln, 1865.

"This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." - Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933.

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." - John F Kennedy, 1960.

Today's Scripture is Luke's version of the opening moments of Jesus' public ministry. We might call this his inaugural sermon.

Mickey Anders, Jesus' Mission and Ours
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10. The Future is God's Gift 
Let me tell you about a commencement speech that was addressed to Harvard's Senior Class. On the morning of their graduation, seniors gather in Memorial Church to hear the minister offer words of solace and encouragement as they leave "the Yard" to take their places in the world.

The 1998 senior class heard the unvarnished truth from the Rev. Peter Gomes, minister at Harvard and the author of several books on the Bible. Doctor Gomes took no prisoners that day. He began: "You are going to be sent out of here for good, and most of you aren't ready to go. The president is about to bid you into the fellowship of educated men and women and, (and here he paused and spoke each word slowly for emphasis) you know just - how - dumb - you - really - are." The senior class cheered in agreement.
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11. Archbishop’s Romero’s “option for the poor.”
Speaking in the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus used Isaiah’s prophetic terms, long since seen as referring to the coming Messiah, to describe his own mission.  Jesus said he had been sent, among other reasons, “to bring good news to the poor." The success of Jesus’ mission, particularly with the poor who had no political power except that conferred by their sheer numbers, made Jesus a “dangerous” person to the religious authorities of Israel and eventually resulted in his crucifixion.   The Christian gospel is still dangerous when its truth is really put into practice.  This is clearly seen in the case of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered when, like Jesus, he reminded people of the needs of the poor and the oppressed in El Salvador.   The story begins in 1979 when a young priest, Father Grande, was shot and killed on the streets of El Salvador.  His "crime" was that he spoke out against the government, which brutally suppressed all forms of protests and executed thousands of innocent people using its notorious “Death Squads.” When Fr. Grande's great friend, Bishop Oscar Romero, was chosen to be the new Archbishop, the authorities thought he would keep quiet on the question of the oppressed poor in that country. Instead, Archbishop Romero became an outspoken defender of the poor and a critic of the state-supported “Death Squads.” To honor the memory of his martyred friend, Archbishop Romero refused to appear in any public ceremonies sponsored by the army or the government. He soon became the voice and conscience of El Salvador.  His words and actions were reported throughout the whole world, so that everybody knew the atrocities happening in El Salvador.  Archbishop Romero’s fight for human rights led to his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.  On March 24, 1980, at 6:25 PM, as Romero was offering Mass in a hospital chapel, a shot from the back of the church struck him in the chest, killing him instantly.  Thus, Archbishop Romero died a martyr for the gospel of Christ.  As we reflect today on Jesus' words about his mission, let us remember Archbishop Romero and continue to strive to live out faithfully, in our world and in our daily lives, the “dangerous” truths of the “good news” which is Jesus’ gift to us today.
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12. Princess Diana’s “liberation theology”:  
Before her tragic death in 1997, Princess Diana was championing the cause of those who had been victims of land-mine explosions. In the weeks following her funeral, the video footage of her last visit to Bosnia ran again and again on televised news programs. Featured in the footage was the Princess, reaching out in compassion to those who had survived the explosion but who would have to live the rest of their lives maimed by the loss of one or more of their limbs. Her care for these wounded members of society was a poignant reminder of what Paul teaches in today’s second reading. Just as every part or member of the human body is necessary to the well-being of the whole person, so is every member of the human family necessary to the well-being of the body of Christ. Therefore each member must be cherished, valued, respected and protected by all the other members.
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13. “Liberation theology” of obesity:  
And God populated the earth with broccoli and cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow vegetable of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives. And Satan created McDonald's.   And McDonald's brought forth the 99-cent double-cheeseburger. And Satan said to Man, "You want fries with that?" And Man said, "Super-size them." And Man gained pounds. And God created the healthful yogurt, that woman might keep her figure that man found so fair. And Satan brought forth chocolate.  And woman gained pounds. And God said, "Try My crispy fresh salad." And Satan brought forth ice cream.  And woman gained pounds. And God said, "I have sent you heart-healthy vegetables and olive oil with which to cook them." And Satan brought forth a chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained pounds and his bad cholesterol went through the roof. ………..And Man went into cardiac arrest. And God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. And Satan created HMOs.
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14. The Shoemaker:
A shoemaker, says Edwin Markham, through a dream was told that he would see Jesus the next day. He waited in his store all day. The only one who came in the morning was a senior citizen. His shoes were worn out. The shoemaker gave him a fresh pair at no charge. In the afternoon came an old woman. She was hungry. The shoemaker promptly gave her his own lunch. As evening approached, a child came in crying bitterly. She was lost. The shoemaker took her home to the other end of town. Returning, he was certain that he had missed his rendezvous with the Christ.

Then he heard a voice. "...I kept my word. Three times today I came to your door. Three times my shadow was on your floor. I was the beggar with bruised feet. I was the woman you gave food to eat. I was the lost child you took home."
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15. The Pregnant Young Girl:

One day I had a particularly beautiful experience that demonstrated the joy that following God's way brings.  I was scurrying about the front office when I noticed a teenage girl standing behind some people getting Mass cards.  She looked pretty shy.  She also looked pretty pregnant.  I said to her, "Can I help you, honey?" (OK, so I'm not politically correct.)  She told me that she was wondering if this is the Church where she could get some food.  I walked her outside and asked her if she was pregnant.  She said, "Six months," with a big smile and then told me, That's why I need food, I'm eating everything in sight."   I brought her over to the Community Life Ministry where our wonderful volunteers took good care of her with the food you folks bring in.   I also brought her to our Pregnancy Center.  I asked her if she had everything she needed for the baby.  She said she had nothing.  So I told her that the people of St. Ignatius have help for her and her baby.  She got in touch with one of our counselors and was able to get all sorts of baby furniture, and clothes, and infant toys and general stuff.  Before she left she said to me, "You know, I could have had an abortion like some of my girl friends.  But I know it is not right.  I know there is a baby in me, and I just couldn't live with myself." I'm relating all this to you because I want to emphasize this point: It is not guilt that kept her from having an abortion; it was the joy that she would be doing the right thing by having the baby.
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Another homily Based on the Second Reading:
There are many members, yet one Body. [1 Cor. 12:20] Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass in honour of the glorified Lord Jesus.

During the Gospel Reading, we heard Jesus proclaiming, today the year of the Lord's favour as it was written in the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. [Lk. 4:19, 21] What did Jesus mean by the words that the year of the Lord's favour had been fulfilled? He meant that the long awaited messianic jubilee had finally arrived. The promised messianic salvation had finally arrived. Jesus affirmed that He was the long awaited Messiah that God the Father had promised to His people throughout the days of the Old Testament.

Two thousand years ago, on Pentecost Day in Jerusalem, [Acts 1:4, 2:2] Jesus established the visible Church to which we belong. At the same time, He established the invisible Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Both together, the visible Holy Catholic Church and the invisible Kingdom of God compose the Mystical Body of Christ.

The Holy Catholic Church, visible in nature, is part of the Body of Christ because it is composed of members who share in the life of the Risen Christ. The invisible Kingdom of God is also part of the Body of Christ because it is composed of all the saints who have persevered in their living faith in Christ, therefore receiving their just eternal reward and salvation. The visible is our first step; the invisible is our final step. The visible is our journey and blessed hope towards the invisible; the invisible is our eternal joy and peace in the continuous Divine presence of our Lord God and all His heavenly creations.

In His proclamation, Jesus said that He had been anointed to bring good news to the poor, He had been sent to release the captives, for the recovery of sight of the blind and to let the oppressed go free. Literally taken with a worldly approach, these words imply that Jesus had come to bring abundance to those who were poor, to free the slaves and the prisoners, to heal the blind and to stop all worldly oppression. But this was not what Jesus meant.

Embracing a spiritual approach, it becomes clear that the proclamation of the Lord Jesus was to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth. The Kingdom of God was the good news that Jesus was proclaiming. For the arrival of the Kingdom of God to be fulfilled, it meant the arrival of the promised Messiah. It meant that those who were spiritually blind would be enlightened, now being able to see the way, the truth and the life. It meant that those who were captives of sin, slaves of Satan, would be free, first through the Sacrament of Baptism and then through the Sacrament of Confession so that they could instantly enjoy eternal life after their physical death.

It meant that those who were spiritually poor would finally have a living hope in Christ. We as Gentiles, had we been born prior to the coming of Christ on earth, we would have been spiritually poor. We would have had no living hope of the eternal glory that comes with salvation because we would not have been part of God's chosen people, the Jewish nation. Before our new birth in Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism, we were poor; now, we are spiritually rich.

The way of life [Acts 2:28] that has been made known to us through Jesus Christ requires our humility and our obedience to the Lord God.

As Christians, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, we are commanded to clothe ourselves with humility. [Col. 3:12] Whoever becomes humbles like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. [Mt. 18:4] He who humbles himself before the Lord, the Lord shall exalt him. [Jas. 4:10] For God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. [1 Pet. 5:5-6]

As Christians, we are also commanded to obey God's Commandments. Today's First Reading from the Book of Nehemiah tells us how much importance was placed in those days on knowing and obeying the law of Moses. In the days of Nehemiah, anyone who had reached the age of reason and could hear with understanding, he was required to be present and to listen to the reading of the law. I can assure you that there was more than one law. It took from early morning until midday to hear them all while they were being read. That would be equivalent to listening to a three or four hour sermon.

Jesus must have known that some of us Gentiles can be very impatient when it comes to long sermons. So, He summarized the Ten Commandments and the law of Moses into two simple Commandments for us. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first Commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two Commandments hang all the law and the prophets." [Mt. 22:37-40]

Those two laws are for the benefit of the one Body of Christ. Jesus did not say, "You shall love yourself and your ways." He said that with all your might, you shall love God first. Secondly, you shall love your neighbours. Why so much emphasis on love? It is because "God is love. [1 Jn. 4:8] Love is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. [Gal. 5:22] "Love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." [1 Jn. 4:7] "All who obey His Commandments abide in Him, and He abides in them. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit that He has given us." [1 Jn. 3:24]

Today's Second Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians revealed to us how important it is for the members of the Body of Christ to be united. Each of us has been called to serve the Lord Jesus. While I serve as a priest, you may serve in the choir as a musician or as a singer. Some are called to be Deacons, others as Extra-Ordinary Eucharistic Ministers. Still others may serve as Altar Servers, as Gift Bearers, as Lectors, as Ministers of Hospitality, as Secretary, as Knights of Columbus, etc... And let us not forget those who have the spiritual gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, of interpretation, of leadership, etc... With each calling comes spiritual gifts to equip each and everyone of us for the benefit of the Body.

If everyone said, "I want to be the musician" or "I want to be the Altar Server," we would have a very serious problem. There is a limit as to how many musicians or Altar Servers we can use during the celebration of one Holy Mass. (Optional: That is when Church Committees are very beneficial. In such situations, the pastor can delegate the authority to the Church Committee to resolve the problem.) As such, in His Divine Wisdom, the Holy Spirit has taken care of this potential problem. He made sure that each and everyone of us are equipped with a variety of gifts that would meet the diversity of needs within the living Body of Christ.

All of this tells us that while there are many members, there is but one Body in Christ in which all its member are indispensable. If someone neglects his functions as a member of the Body of Christ, all the members suffer. Why? Because there is something missing. It is like trying to point a direction to someone with a missing index finger. No finger, no pointing!

Some may choose to say, "Well, I am a part-time member. I am busy with my worldly affairs and so I go to Church once a year." To this, Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters, for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." [Mt. 6:24]

Another one may say, "I go to Church every Sunday but I do not want to commit myself to anything." To this, the Book of Revelation tells us, "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." [Rev. 3:15-7]

Now some may not like the previous answers and say, "I quit!" Sorry, but you cannot quit the Body of Christ. You see, when you received the Sacrament of Baptism, you were born again in water and Spirit. [Jn. 3:5] You received your new creation of the godly seed [1 Jn. 3:9] in fulfillment of the promises of the Heavenly Father that are found in the Old Testament. During your admission in the Body of Christ as a new creation, you received as "first instalment," [Eph. 1:13-4; 2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5] the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit for the purpose of your sanctification.

To quit the Body of Christ, you would have to totally and freely reject the grace of God and the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. You would have to reject the Advocate that the Father and the Son have sent to sanctify you in Christ.

So belonging to the Body of Christ is not the same as working for a Company. As an employee, if you do not do your job, the employer fires you and replaces you. Then productivity resumes with the new employee. But in the Body of Christ, it is different. If the index finger decides that it will not become actively involved in the ministry of the Church, then I am afraid that the Body of Christ will have to go without a pointing finger.

So you see, when you have a fallen-away Catholic who has shipwrecked and abandoned his living faith in Christ, he is still a Catholic. He still belongs to the Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ shall suffer as long as the faithful members of the Church do not commit themselves to evangelizing in their Parish to ensure that all the members of the Body of Christ are active participants of their local Church. That is what St. Paul was teaching to the Corinthians.

The Body of Christ cannot be divided. No one can say, "There are Catholics and then there are Catholics." For there is one Christ, one Spirit, one faith, one Baptism and one Body. When a small part of the Body of Christ isolates itself from the remaining of the Body, it creates disharmony that can lead to division. Such action is not of the Spirit of Christ.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this week, with a sincere heart, let us reflect upon our commitment to the Body of Christ. Let us ask ourselves, "Am I actively involved in my Parish?" "Am I making an effort to draw to my Parish those that I know who have shipwrecked in their faith?" Or, "Am I the cause of division within the Body of Christ?"
As we continue the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray for one another, that through our Christian Unity, the Body of Christ may come to its fullness so the Lord God may be glorified in all things.