3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time C
It’s hard to imagine how dramatic the scene in Nazareth was that day when Jesus returned to his hometown. But let’s try.
Imagine you are in the synagogue that day when Jesus came back. You sense the excitement in the air. You have known Jesus perhaps for as long as he has lived. He has sat with Joseph in the same place because no one ever changes their seat. But this time is unique. For from every neighboring town there are reports of his powerful preaching and miraculous deeds. It is hard to believe, but already you can tell he looks different. It is not just the change of boy to man. He is different than even a year ago. It is how he carries himself, his presence. He stands before everyone and is given the great scroll of the Prophet Isaiah. He unfurls it to the passage that sets a new horizon for Israel, God’s vision for God’s people. He reads,
“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.”
These words are the shape of hope for Israel. They go to the heart of God’s promise.
Jesus sits down; the eyes of everyone are riveted on him. Then he speaks, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” It is stunning. He not talking about what God is going to do. He says it is happening now and it is happening because of him. At this point you could have three possible reactions. #1. I wish Fr. Bob’s homilies were only nine words long. #2. The carpenter’s son has absolutely lost it. Or maybe you think #3. Maybe if we follow him, our dreams for ourselves and the world might be realized.

You are here because you believe in that third option. These are words that galvanize or repel, but we who claim the name Christian drink in those words, believe them.
It is not that it has not happened. This vision has made progress. I believe the world is more directed toward love than pagan society could have made possible. People can be more welcoming. Our church, for all its faults has also made the vision real – feeding millions, caring for the sick like no other institution in the world. Our parish lives out the vision by feeding the hungry, standing up for justice and sharing the good news from the smallest child to our oldest person.
But the vision is clearly not fulfilled. Not when our church is wounded and has wounded. Not when the most expansive abortion measure in the United States has become law. Not when a Cathedral is bombed in the Philippines by terrorists. Not when our politics are so fractured and the poor have to carry the burden first. Not when people are still judged by the color of their skin, where they came from and when they came. And you might think how could Jesus Christ have left us before the job was done – before we were all professed in mercy?
But he did not leave us. He is right here. Before we focused on Jesus; now let us focus on each other. We are the body of Christ. Born of God’s Spirit, we are the inheritors of Isaiah’s hope. It will take all of us to complete it, but if this is Christ’s promise, then somehow the body of Christ can still make it true.
We welcome all because the task is so great and our capabilities are endless. We welcome all because we need all. We need each of you and your family, the stranger sitting behind you and the person in the empty seat who could be here as well. If the poor are to receive good news, the blind recover their sight and the oppressed are to be freed, we need every person, every talent, every blessing God has given us. This is what we are about because this is what Jesus was about.
Imagine once again. This time Isaiah’s vision is reality because we the body of Christ took up the mantle. Eyes will be opened and ignorance dissipates for we are the body of Christ. People who are oppressed will have someone to stand up for them, for we are the body of Christ. The poor will know justice and equality because we never leave their side, for we the body of Christ. This will be ayear governed by the grace of God for we are the body of Christ. Then Isaiah’s promise will not be ridiculed. It will not be said that it is impossible, too impractical, a fool’s passion. It will happen because it is the word of God. It will happen for we are the body of Christ.