From the Pastor's Desk

Am I conscious of Jesus’ presence in our midst? How do I show others that I am part of the Body of Christ?

Today’s Gospel, presenting Jesus’ inaugural speech in the synagogue of Nazareth and outlining his theology of total liberation, marks a great moment in Jewish history. The Scripture readings for today focus our attention on the importance and liberating power of the Word of God as "sacramental," making God present in our midst. The readings challenge us to listen to the Word, accept it into our hearts, and then put it into practice as we live out our lives, liberating ourselves and others from all types of bondages.

Today’s first reading, taken from Nehemiah, and Luke’s Gospel both describe a public reading of Sacred Scripture which challenged the hearers to make a "fresh beginning" with a new outlook. In the first reading, after rebuilding the Temple and restoring the city, Ezra was leading the people in a “Covenant renewal” ceremony by reading and interpreting the Law.

The Second Reading, taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, reminds us that “Together we are Christ’s Body, but each of us is a different part of it.” This suggests that, as different parts of Christ’s Body, we each have a share, as his instruments, in bringing the freeing and saving mission of Christ to our world in our times.

Today’s Gospel describes how, on a Sabbath, Jesus stood before the people in the synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth, reading and interpreting what Isaiah had prophesied about the Messiah and his mission. Jesus claimed that he was the One sent "to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberation to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed"—language that reflects the Biblical year of Jubilee. To the great amazement and disbelief of his own townsmen, Jesus declared that Isaiah’s prophecy was being fulfilled at that very moment “in their hearing," because the prophet was foretelling and describing Jesus’ mission and ministry. Jesus’ mission would be to give liberation to everyone who would listen to his “Good News,” accept it and put it into practice. Luke reports that the initial reaction of the people was surprise at the power and eloquence of this son of their soil.

Life messages:

1) We need to receive Christ’s freedom, live it and pass it on to others: As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we share in the freeing, saving mission of Jesus. But we are captives of sin. We need Christ to set us free. We are often blinded by our evil habits, addictions and need for financial security. Once we receive true liberation from Christ, we have to share it with those we encounter in our daily lives, families, neighborhoods, parishes and workplaces.

2) We need to let the power of the Holy Spirit fill us, and to be ready to have miracles done through us. Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus performed miracles because he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us be ready to become Spirit-filled instruments of Christ’s saving freedom.

Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero’s “option for the poor.”

Speaking in the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus used Isaiah’s prophetic terms, long since seen as referring to the coming Messiah, to describe his own mission. Jesus said he had been sent, among other reasons, “to bring Good News to the poor." The success of Jesus’ mission, particularly with the poor who had no political power except that conferred by their sheer numbers, made Jesus a “dangerous” person to the religious authorities of Israel and eventually resulted in his crucifixion. The Christian Gospel is still dangerous when its truth is really put into practice. This is clearly seen in the case of Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero, who was murdered when, like Jesus, he reminded people of the needs of the poor and the oppressed in El Salvador. The story begins in 1979 when a young priest, Father Grande, was shot and killed on the streets of El Salvador. His "crime" was that he spoke out against the government, which brutally suppressed all forms of protests and executed thousands of innocent people using its notorious “Death Squads.” When Fr. Grande’s great friend, Bishop Oscar Romero, was chosen to be the new Archbishop, the authorities thought he would keep quiet on the question of the oppressed poor in that country. Instead, Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero became an outspoken defender of the poor and a critic of the state-supported “Death Squads.” To honor the memory of his martyred friend, Romero refused to appear in any public ceremonies sponsored by the army or the government. He soon became the voice and conscience of El Salvador. His words and actions were reported throughout the whole world, so that everybody knew the atrocities happening in El Salvador. Romero’s fight for human rights led to his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. On March 24, 1980, at 6:25 PM, as the Archbishop was offering Mass in a hospital Chapel, a shot from the back of the Church struck him in the chest, killing him instantly. Thus, Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero died a martyr for the Gospel of Christ. As we reflect today on Jesus’ words about his mission, let us remember Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero and continue to strive to live out faithfully, in our world and in our daily lives, the “dangerous” truths of the “Good News” which is Jesus’ gift to us today..

Fr. Gus. MS, Pastor