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Third Sunday of Ordinary Time C

Today we begin reading the Gospel of Luke. In his opening preface (1:1-4) Luke tells us why he wrote the gospel. It was to explain to Theophilus, he probably a Roman official, what Christianity was all about. Have you ever tried to explain to someone what Christianity is all about? Many people think that Christianity is all about sin and judgment, heaven and hell; and that God is a heavenly policeman who is constantly monitoring our movements, writing down all our sins in His book and waiting to throw us into hellfire as soon as He catches up with us. Luke sees it all differently. For him Christianity has more to do with God’s love and mercy than with punishment.

That is why, in telling Theophilus about the Christian faith, Luke finds the incident in the synagogue in Nazareth very useful. In this incident found only in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus makes a solemn declaration of his mission in the world. We can call it the Jesus Manifesto. Jesus has come to start a revolution of mercy and love in the world. And here in today’s Gospel reading he publishes the Christian manifesto:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (4:18-19)

Jesus defines his mission. His mission is his very person and life, the liberation God wants to bring about for His people – not just of physical liberation but the liberation of the soul.

To bring glad tidings to the poor. Jesus has a special heart for the poor, because the real poor in spirit are the ones most inclined to accept his message of salvation despite their condition and simple lifestyle. God made himself poor in Jesus, so that the poor might become rich in grace. This is the glad tidings, that for those who are poor in spirit, the kingdom of God is theirs.

To proclaim liberty to captives. People who are not free are not only those found in jails. There are those who are prisoners of their selfishness, greed and hunger for wealth, fame and power, the worst kind of captivity, those who are enslaved by their vices and addiction – to power, lust, alcohol, drugs, etc. Jesus wants us to be liberated from our own prisons. God offers us new life in Christ Jesus by offering and the sacrifice of his Son on the cross.

To recover the sight of the blind. We are blind if we only see our own needs and not our neighbors’. We are blind if we cannot distinguish good from evil. We are blind if we cannot see our own fault, our own sins. We are blind if we allow our hearts to be governed by bitterness and hatred, not by self-giving and love. When Jesus opened the eyes of the blind, he would always say, “Go, and sin no more.”

To liberate those who are oppressed. We see all kinds of oppression around us. People who are unemployed, so hard up, no food on their table and and even no shelter, suffering from the extreme cold of winter. People who are discouraged and depressed. Jesus made himself one with them, the Immanuel, the Messiah, to let them know that they are not alone, that after all, if they would not lose faith, theirs is true liberation.

This is the mission of Jesus, his very life. We are part of this mission. Because we are one body, we breathe one spirit as St. Paul says in the second reading. We belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others. God has given each of us the ability to respond to the needs of others.

The passage from Isaiah (that Jesus read) is applicable to our own life. We can be sure that, because of Jesus, there are glad tidings for us, there is liberty from sin and hell, there is new sight and new beauty for us to see and enjoy, there are years of favor for us in the sight of God. Our life is meant to be a joy, not a sorrow.

This is our hope, this is our constant prayer. Jesus has shown us the way. His promises of joy and liberty, his glad tidings and announcements to the poor, are meant to give us courage and guidance.

When we live our life according to God’s word and God’s promise, when we live our life in God’s presence, when we try to know, love and serve God in this world, we will truly be happy with him here on earth, and happier forever with him in heaven.