Today’s gospel is a very familiar one and is part of the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry according to the Gospel of Luke. The scene is set in a local synagogue and Jesus is asked to read from the Scriptures. as seems to have been the tradition, the invited reader was able to select a passage. Jesus chose to read from the Prophet Isaiah (61:1):
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.
Certainly the passage is meant to be understood by the listeners (and us!) as Jesus’ public testimony that he is the long awaited anointed one, the Christos. As the passage continues the listeners quickly move to “who does he think he is” and try to throw Jesus off a cliff as punishment for his blasphemy. I think the trajectory of the account quickly leaves the citation from Isaiah in the “rear view.”‘
What about us? Take some time and read Isaiah 61. The Word of the Lord is being spoken to the people of Israel in their Babylonian Exile. It is not only a promise of return to Jerusalem, but it is also a challenge of “if you say you are the People of God, then here is what I expect.” Just as Jesus promised glad tidings to the poor, liberty to those captive, sight to those blinded, and freedom from burdens – we are anointed by our baptism to offer those things in our age.
Today, in the midst of pandemic fatigue, viral uncertainty, and the loss of “normal,” we need glad tidings and to be people who bring glad tidings. We are captive to the pandemic, burdened by the necessary safety precautions, find it hard to see an end, and simply want to be free to hug family and friends. And yet, we are called to be Christ for one another, to bring the light of Christ into our lives and lives of others.
What about us? How will we fulfill our baptismal vows in which we too were anointed with Spirit of the Lord? There is a people in a modern captivity of this pandemic that need to hear the Good News.