Way back on January 27th, on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time – we heard these words from the beginning of St. Luke’s Gospel:
In the synagogue at Nazareth, where he had grown up, Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the passage of Isaiah where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. God 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.
And Jesus said to them: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
With these words, Jesus told those in Nazareth, and he tells us – what his life is all about – what his mission statement is. . .
I thought it would be a good idea to revisit those words and that mission – because, in case you haven’t noticed – we are back to green – Easter and other feast days are over and done with — and now we begin our looooong stretch of Ordinary Time.
Beginning today, the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we will begin a methodical count of Sundays all the way up to the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time on November 17 – and then celebrate the Feast of Christ the King –
and then begin a new liturgical year with the season of Advent – at which point we will probably be complaining about the cold and frigid weather. . .
In most years, our methodical count is interrupted by a feast day or two falling on a Sunday: the Transfiguration here, the Assumption there, and perhaps the feast of All Saints or All Souls, the Birth of John the Baptist or the feast of Saints Peter and Paul — but not this year. Our counting is a straight shot – which means our reading of St. Luke’s Gospel is uninterrupted: from now until late November, wherever we leave off reading the Gospel on one Sunday – we will usually pick right back up reading the next Sunday—
which will give us the clearest picture possible of that mission of Jesus – which needs to become our mission:
Bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and allowing the oppressed to go free.
St. Luke’s Gospel is written for the underdogs of this world – those who always find themselves at the bottom of the pile, who never seem to get a break, and who always fall behind in some way.
In the coming weeks as we read some interesting parables unique to St. Luke – like the farmer who feels the need to build bigger barns, guests who attend banquets, a woman who loses a coin —
And as we meet some interesting people: like a “Good” Samaritan, a rich man and Lazarus in the afterlife, a Pharisee and tax collector praying, 10 lepers who are cured, the tree climbing Zacchaeus, and a good thief who hangs on the cross next to Jesus —- who knows — we may just find out that we are among the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed – who desperately need to hear the liberating message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Over the next 20 weeks – we may have a guest speaker or two, hear a good story or two, have some laughs or shed some tears —
all as we do as Jesus does today – be resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem —
and we know as well as Jesus does what awaits us there: the cross —- from which our glorious king will eventually reign.
If we are going to be successful on our journey, and most especially if we are going to be successful in our mission of proclaiming the Gospel —we have to do two things — keep our eyes, minds, and hearts focused on Jesus — and know that we do not journey alone – in fact we cannot journey alone – we need the care and support of one another —- and we will have a story about that just next week.
The color for Ordinary Time is green — and out of curiosity – I googled “the meaning of the color green” and this is what I found:
GREEN is the color of life, renewal, nature, and energy. Green is associated with meanings of growth, harmony, freshness, safety, fertility and the environment. All life-giving and Gospel oriented things and themes. . .
Now listen to this contrast: GREEN is also traditionally associated with money, finances, banking, ambition, greed, and jealousy. Not quite as life-giving and certainly world oriented things and themes.
What are we going to keep our focus on? The world and its values, or the gospel?
The world promises acceptance.
The gospel promises the cross.
The world offers flesh and flash.
The gospel offers faith.
The world says: follow everyone else and fit in.
The gospel says: follow Jesus and stand out.
The world promises to please.
The gospel promises to save.
God doesn’t want to hear our excuses – like the ones Jesus had to listen to in the Gospel –
Let me go first and bury my father — let me first go and say farewell to my family at home – our excuses might include we are too busy, we don’t have the time or the energy, we have better things to do . . .
No, God doesn’t want our excuses – God just wants a commitment from us and asks which is it going to be — the world or the Gospel??
Let’s end with a prayer from the Letter to the Hebrews:
Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us— and persevere in running the race that lies before us — while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross and has taken his seat at the right hand of God.
May we not grow weary or lose heart as we strive to follow after Jesus. AMEN! (12:1-3)