“Christ Makes the Kingdom Present”–this is the testimony of Pope John Paul II. It is no accident he cites the Lord’s appearance in the synagogue, reading that passage from Isaiah about the coming glory of God in bringing relief to those in pain and bondage.
In his Gospel, Luke the Evangelist sets up the readers and listeners with an expectation. A promise, if you will. He reminds believers that the promise of God from the prophet Isaiah:
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. (NRSV, Isaiah 61:1-3)
The promise delivered to a post-Exile community shaken by the destruction of national and religious identity is given hope. God signaled a plan of redemption. The evangelist relates Jesus bringing the news that a next stage is upon his listeners.
Jesus of Nazareth brings God’s plan to fulfillment. After receiving the Holy Spirit at his Baptism, Jesus makes clear his messianic calling: he goes about Galilee “preaching the Gospel of God and saying: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel'” (Mk 1:14-15; cf. Mt 4:17; Lk 4:43). The proclamation and establishment of God’s kingdom are the purpose of his mission: “I was sent for this purpose” (Lk 4:43).
In his two biblical books, Luke sets up expectations. And the action of God fulfills them. The Passion and Resurrection. The Descent of the Holy Spirit. The living and active community of Christians who bring to Gospel to Samaria, Africa, the ports of the Middle East, and across Mare Nostrum to the end of the world–Rome itself.
Christians acknowledge that Jesus does more than speak hopeful words. We embrace that he is the Word, that he himself is the Good News. Pope John Paul II explains:
But that is not all. Jesus himself is the “Good News,” as he declares at the very beginning of his mission in the synagogue at Nazareth, when he applies to himself the words of Isaiah about the Anointed One sent by the Spirit of the Lord (cf. Lk 4;14-21). Since the “Good News” is Christ, there is an identity between the message and the messenger, between saying, doing and being. His power, the secret of the effectiveness of his actions, lies in his total identification with the message he announces; he proclaims the “Good News” not just by what he says or does, but by what he is.
This is the point Christians are called to imitate by evangelization and mission. We are hardly the Word in the sense that the Lord is. But we are called to go to depths beyond our talking and walking–we are called to a deep witness of the Lord. Jesus has changed those who style themselves his sisters and brothers. It goes deeper than what we say and what we do. It goes to the very root of our God-given humanity. God calls us. God saves us. The effective evangelist knows it and shows it.
More on this section tomorrow.
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