Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing. Luke 4:21
Jesus, as we know, was a very great teacher and preacher. During his public years, he attracted crowds throughout Galilee as he taught in synagogues throughout the land. The crowds, St. Luke tells us, celebrated his message, not just his preaching skills.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is in his hometown, Nazareth, where he joins the elders of the community as a scripture reader at the Sabbath service. A fellow worshipper gives Jesus a scroll of readings drawn from Isaiah and the words are prescient. In sum, the message goes something like this: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me. I have been appointed to bring good news to the poor. I have been sent to release the prisoners, to recover the sight of the blind, to comfort those broken into pieces, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
Jesus then sits down, the position of the teacher in those days, and says, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” When do you think “today” is? Two thousand years ago? The day we made our Confirmation? Or maybe he means Sunday, January 23, which also happens to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day. Fellow missioners, I think it’s all of the above. But today is the day that counts the most.
Imbued with the Spirit, Jesus always focused His preaching on the most vulnerable—the needy, and the oppressed—and on the compromised, those of us who cannot see a sister or a brother in a stranger, or in someone whose life has been shattered.
This is my “today” story: When I served as university chaplain in Kenya, some of the most vulnerable people I met were pregnant students. Often times the father disappeared. Then the woman’s family, who had invested so much in the education of their daughter, often pressured her to abort. On top of that, the university had a policy of no pregnant women in the dorms. When you are faced abandonment, pressure from your parents, and the possibility of giving up your education altogether, abortion begins to look like a solution.
In all my mission years, I have never found a scientific, philosophical, or even religious argument that helped these students. When you are lonely, desperate, and impoverished, you do desperate things. But I do know what can work. Supporting a pregnant woman with rent, pre-natal care, food, and baby clothes will help a shattered woman to choose life. That’s what our university parish did in Kenya. And we were blessed to welcome dozens of newborns into our community.
Friend, the Holy Spirit didn’t just give direction or purpose to Jesus’ life. We are the recipients of God’s grace, too. How we choose to use it is the question for today—and all our tomorrows.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Lance Nadeau, M.M.
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lord God, author of life,
help us to help all women
love, cherish and protect their children.
May we make our world a place of safety
where all babies are wanted, sheltered,
nourished and educated as befits
a precious child made in the image
and likeness of God.
Rid our land of violence, O Lord,
help us raise our neighbors from poverty
and teach us to restore the Earth, our common home,
to the goodness and beauty in which You first created it.
Lord, forgive our ignorance and replace it with Your wisdom.
Heal our indifference and replace it
with Your loving kindness.
Spread the light of Your truth
to all who still sit in darkness and
the shadow of death.
Fill our hearts to overflowing
with the joy of knowing Your mercy
is not diminished nor Your grace
lessened by our sharing Your blessings
with everyone we meet.
Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.