Reflection - January 20, 2019

“He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
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.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
‘Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’”

If our reader on a Sunday walked up to the ambo and happened to be reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah quoted above and instead of saying, “The Word of the Lord,” that we’re used to hearing at the end of the reading, said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” we would probably think he or she was delusional. We would probably be right. This story from the gospel today is a unique moment in Jesus’s life. It indicates Jesus’s self understanding of both who he was and what his mission was. Anointed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ. Luke emphasizes in Jesus’s mission the reversal of fortune associated with the Kingdom of God. Good news has come for the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. Jesus knows who he is and why he’s here. In this moment, he proclaims truth to all of those gathered in the synagogue. He is the messiah sent to proclaim the good news and usher in the kingdom. You and I, or our reader, are not the messiah. We are not the anointed one and we do not have his unique mission. 


Jesus is our unique savior. He is, again, the Christ. Paul reminds us, however, in the second reading, that we are members of Christ’s body:
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Paul is particularly interested in demonstrating that each member of the body is of equal dignity and value having received the one Spirit. In the above verses, we see the distinctions of Jew or Greek and slave or free overcome by the Spirit. The end of the reading, however, shows that Paul isn’t just interested in socio-cultural distinctions, but in functional distinctions for the Spirit empowered mission of Christ’s body, as well. He lists some of the possible members of Christ’s body by the contribution they make to the mission: apostles, prophets, teachers, mighty deeds, healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. This list should be understood to be representational, not exhaustive, but the important point is that each member of Christ’s body (e.g., each of us) is equally important to fulfilling the ongoing mission of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit regardless of what our particular contribution may be. We are all necessary. 

You see, we would be delusional to think that we are the messiah, but we are of sound mind to realize we are members of Christ’s body and that his continued mission on earth depends on us. Each of us, whatever our gifts and whatever our contribution to the mission, are essential for God’s purpose. Paul says, “Now you are Christ's body, and individually parts of it.” If we give what we have to give and do what we can do, then, truly, this scripture is fulfilled in our hearing.