Bring glad tidings to the poor

Gospel of Luke 1:1-4; 14-21

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.- Lk 4:18-19

Those who would say that the Jesus Christ was not primarily concerned with the poor, the captive, the down-trodden, the marginalized, and the oppressed are ignorant to his very words. In today’s Gospel the ministry of Jesus begins with a proclamation of purpose. A proclamation that Jesus came for the salvation of humankind, all of humankind, and most especially for those who exist in desperate need.

In our modern-day 1st world culture we have allowed ourselves to become insulated from the desperation of the human condition. The images of human suffering filtered through the lens of political opinion and compartmentalized by the refined delicacies of wealth have given permission to the treatment of the human-being as a commodity. A commodity to be exploited for personal and corporate wealth, or power, or pleasure.

The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. The belief that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person is essential to our faith and to our salvation. To diminish, and in some cases even, remove the significance, value, and beauty of the human being is a reprehensible sin against God.

Yet, we do.

In our society abortion, euthanasia, and contraception have pressured us to deny the intrinsic God ordained dignity of life. In response to these evils we often (and rightly so) gather together to protest, to pray, and to stand in line to cast our ballot against these atrocities. However, as we gather in protest or in prayer, or as we make our way to the ballot box, we must not ignore the needs present in our very church, neighborhoods, places of work, or in our communities. The poor, the captive, the down-trodden, the marginalized, and the oppressed surround us and are even present here among us. We, in our imitation of Christ, should never ignore the priority of those for whom he came. In our fervor for a movement, we must not lose our compassion for the individual.

We should never cease in our efforts to move our governmental and social institutions in alignment towards God’s universal call of justice and peace. And, we must not pass over those for whom Jesus Christ came to set free, to give sight, and to release from burden. Those who lie in the shadowy gutters of poverty, captivity, isolation, desperation, and loneliness are our preference. They are our first priority.

Those who by circumstance or consequence lack the ability to change their environment or their station are for us the very ones to whom our first efforts should be given. Those who desperately need the hands of Jesus to lift them from their deprivation should find our hands outstretched in compassion and care. St Vincent de Paul states, “It is not enough to give bread and soup. This the rich can do. You are the servant of the poor… They are your masters.”

The poor are still among us and not just those who lack material and physical need. There are those among us whose poverty is a poverty of friendship. A poverty of legitimate and meaningful relationships. They exist in our world. We pass by them every day. On our travels to and from home, at our places of work, and in our shops, markets, and most definitely, in our Church.

Have we forgotten the very words of Christ? Have we forgotten his call to pick up our cross and follow him? Have we dismissed his mission? His mission to bring glad tidings to the poor!

My brothers and sisters today’s Gospel is a call to action. A reminder that our Savior, our Lord, came to this earth not that we may be men and women of comfort. Not that we should turn our eyes and deafen our ears to the cries and pleas of the hurting, the hungry, and the lonely.

No, my brothers and sisters, our Savior and Lord has called us;
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.

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing”, and not just in your hearing, but also by your doing.