At the beginning of the year, on the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we heard this passage from the Gospel of St. Luke:
“He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. 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’” (Luke 4:16-19)
On the subsequent weeks of Ordinary Time, we have heard stories of Jesus doing these things. He has preached and taught. The teachings and sermons have indeed been glad tidings. One cannot help but notice that it is the poor, peasant people who find this to be so. The rich and powerful leaders of Israel don’t find much to be glad about in Jesus preaching.
We have heard stories of Jesus giving sight to the blind, of making the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and even of raising dead people from their biers and restoring them to their families. In chapter seven, when John the Baptist sent his followers to Jesus, we heard Jesus answer thus:
“When the men came to him, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘”Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” At that time he cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. And he said to them in reply, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them’” (Luke 7:20-22). Actions do indeed speak louder than words.
However, there is one thing missing from the Isaiah prophecy; namely, letting the oppressed go free. Jesus has performed all of the Messianic signs except this one – until the climax of the Gospel. As Jesus is at his weakest moment and in his most vulnerable position, he uses his power to free a captive. The criminal who confesses his guilt to Jesus simply asks to be remembered. In that simple request, he receives more than he could ever imagine. Jesus promises him paradise.
The prophecy is complete. Jesus, the King of the Universe, offers to free us as well. All we need do is follow the example of the criminal and confess our guilt. God’s mercy is indeed abundant.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator