Saturday, January 23, 2010

Make the dream of Jesus, our dream too

HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, January 24, 2010:


For what seems like an eternity, we here in Boston have been deluged by an endless barrage of political commercials leading up to Tuesday’s special election for U.S. Senator from: Scott Brown’s “Bold New Leadership” vs. Martha Coakley’s “A different kind of leadership.” And now, just when we thought it was over, we’ve had non-stop coverage of the results and the pundits have turned their focus on the President recalling that just a year ago this week Barack Obama was inaugurated and now the question is about what he has or has not accomplished in this year.

But, this reminder of a year ago got me thinking about inaugural addresses. Every four years as a president begins their new term, we engage in one of our regular national celebrations, full of pomp and circumstance – the inauguration. An inauguration is no small affair – it costs in the tens of millions of dollars, there are countless parties, dinners and dances. But, the highlight of every inauguration is the inaugural address, which is almost always a truly memorable speech.

Last year’s speech was no exception as the President said many powerful things including, “The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” Of course, this is just one in a long line of memorable speeches. Remember the powerful words spoken by President Ford as he assumed office in a very difficult and challenging time in our nation’s history. He said, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.”

Or, who can forget the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 when he said to a nation in the midst of a terrible depression, “This great nation will endure…The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Or some of the most famous inaugural words spoken by John F. Kennedy in 1961, when he said, “And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. As what you can do for your country.”

I mention these inaugurals today, not because of the interesting political atmosphere that has gripped us this week in our beloved state, but because our Gospel passage from Luke describes another inaugural address of a new leader. As we are still early in Ordinary Time, we have presented to us the Gospel of Luke. In our three-year cycle of readings, this is the year of Luke. We will hear from this Gospel most of the time this year. In the opening paragraph that we heard today, Luke tells us why he wrote the Gospel. He is writing to Theophilus (a name that means in Greek, “one who loves God), probably a Roman official, to tell him what Christianity was all about. For Luke, Christianity is focused on God's love and mercy reaching out to everyone, but especially to those in need. That’s why, in telling Theophilus about the Christian faith, Luke finds the incident in the synagogue in Nazareth very important. In this incident, Jesus makes a solemn declaration of his mission in the world. It is, in fact, His inaugural address that He gives at the beginning of His mission as Messiah and Savior. And, it too, is filled with exciting and memorable phrases – as every inaugural address is.

Jesus says, “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.”
The words of this inaugural address of Jesus are filled with hope – for the poor, for the helpless, for the captives, for the sick and for the oppressed. In this respect, they are like the words of just about every inaugural. They are words that outline a vision that cannot be carried out by one person working alone. They can, and must, be carried out by everyone working together. As St. Paul says in our passage from First Corinthians, “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.” In other words, we all must work together and share the responsibility of making the dreams of our Leader, Jesus Christ, come true. We must be the ones to carry on His agenda if it is to be made a reality.

The dream that Jesus sets forth is a dream that can be realized only if we, His followers, make it our dream as well. If the victims of poverty, hunger, and homelessness in today’s world are to hear the Good News of Jesus, then we must be the ones to tell them about it. If the victims of blindness, AIDS, cancer or other illnesses are to recover their hope, then we are the ones who bring that hope to them. If the victims of oppression throughout the world are to be set free, then we are the ones who must raise our voices in their support. If the darkness of our world is to be lit up with the Light of Christ, then we are the ones that have shine that light and help make it happen.

An old man was walking along the beach after a big storm one day. Fifty yards ahead of him was a young woman. She was picking up starfish that the storm had stranded on the beach, and was throwing them back into the sea. When the old man caught up with her, he asked her what she was doing. She replied that the starfish would die unless they were returned to the sea before the sun began beating down on them. The old man said, “But the beach goes on for miles and miles, and there are thousands of stranded starfish. How can your small effort make a difference?” Picking up a starfish and holding it lovingly in her hands, she said, “It makes a big difference to this one.” And with that, she returned it to the sea.

The spirit of that young woman is the type of spirit that every Christian must strive to imitate. When someone asks us, “How can your small effort make a difference in a world filled with billions of people crying out for help,” our answer must be the same as the young woman’s. “It makes a big difference to the ones we are able to help.” And if we give generously of our own loaves and fishes, Jesus will find a way to multiply them and feed the hungry multitude.

My brothers and sisters, this is the inaugural message of our Leader, Jesus Christ, and He invites us to help Him accomplish His mission. The Lord has anointed us “to bring glad tidings to the poor…to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”

This is the kind of faith that will inspire others to join us and indeed shine the Light of Christ to dispel the darkness of our world. May we make the dream of Jesus, our dream as well.

May God give you peace.

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