• Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 • 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 • Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21 • 3rd Ordinary C ‘13 •
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 01.27.2013
The School of the Americas (SOA) was initially established by our Department of Defense in 1946. It was located in Panama as a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. It later moved to its present location at Fort Benning, Georgia. Since 1946, the SOA has trained over 64,000 Latin American soldiers in skills later used to wage war against their own people. A trail of blood and suffering across Latin America can be attributed to graduates of that school.
In the introduction to his gospel Luke tells us he was not an eyewitness to the events he narrates. He then tells us “Jesus returned to Galilee” and “taught in their synagogues.” Today we focus on his detailed description of what Jesus did in the synagogue in Nazareth.
Who is this Jesus whose life is so surprising? As we read the gospel of Luke this year we will hear his answer to that question. If you listen to Luke carefully, you may discover your images of Jesus carry a lot of baggage Luke would not recognize.
Jesus was a man like us, born and raised in Nazareth, the son of a carpenter. It was his custom as a Jewish man to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath. On this day “he stood up in the synagogue . . . to read.” Apparently, unlike most of his peers, he was literate!
Luke is emphatic that “the eyes of all in the Synagogue looked intently at him.” They had heard reports of him circulating around the surrounding area. Now with him back among them, they wonder. Who is Jesus?
After reading Isaiah he did not say, “today I am fulfilling this passage,” but — “today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He made no claim of divinity. He was more interested in proclaiming God’s actions than in emphasizing his own. Yes, he apparently was sensitive to the things God was doing in people’s lives. Yes, he apparently noticed things and people others never saw. His sensitivity, his insight and compassion made his humanity very obvious. In him we are given a glimpse of what it is to be fully human and learn about our own humanity.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me” “He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
In this text Luke wants his readers to clearly recognize the passion that drove Jesus in his public life and the goal of all his activity. Those words explain the task for which he felt called by God. Notice this. Jesus was not intent upon organizing a more perfect religion. He was not forming a cult. His clear concern was to bring liberation and life to all but — especially to the poorest and most miserable. That is the essence of the text and of what it means to follow Jesus! To follow him is to have the same passion and the same goal.
Maryknoll priest Father Roy Bourgeois is a Vietnam-era combat veteran who lived and ministered among the poor in Bolivia. His experience in Bolivia awakened in him the same passion and goal that drove Jesus. In 1983 he initiated a campaign to close the SOA. More recently he became actively involved in promoting the ordination of women. His activity and preaching infuriated the Pope and Vatican officials. In November the Vatican removed him from the Maryknoll Society, laicized and excommunicated him.
This gospel text disturbs my complacency and makes me uncomfortable. I see in Roy Bourgeois a contemporary example of what it means to follow Jesus and name myself “Christian.” It means to be and do like Christ. I struggle with this text, uncertain what it asks of me in my life circumstance. I know it means bringing liberation and life to the poorest and most miserable. I don’t measure up to that. I want to. I have not given up my commitment or effort to imitate Christ. I want to be more fully human. I encourage you to continue in your effort as well.