If one were to look at the sociopolitical context of Galilee in the time of Christ, one could easily surmise why Christ chose to begin his ministry there.
Prophecies aside, Galilee was the perfect place. It was considered the home of the more progressive elements in Palestine. If there was any place where the radical ideas of Christ would have found an audience, it was Galilee.
Nazareth, it turns out, is not as “barriotic” as we were made to imagine. I recall some professors and priests saying Mary, the Blessed Mother, was like a simple young girl from the barrio. It is not that the Blessed Mother was not simple and pure of heart and spirit, but Nazareth was far from being a barrio. It is described as a “polis,” a city or town.
Luke, in today’s Gospel, also reminds us of the historicity of Christ’s person and story. Many scripture commentators would refer to the opening of Luke’s Gospel, which we read today, as “an historian’s introduction.”
One of the titles of Christ we used to hear often is the Lord of History.
The context and content of Christ’s message, as exemplified in the beginning of Christ’s ministry in today’s narrative in Luke, define Christ’s Lord of History title. You read the great effort to describe the historical context, e.g., the mention of the historical figures—Roman rulers, the Palestinian civil bosses and the Jewish religious leaders. When Christ came into the public eye, Luke mentions all three leaders—Roman, civil and religious authorities of the Jews.
The Baptism narrative is the dramatic overture of Christ’s mission and identity. The story begins with an equally dramatic yet more subtle scene, the Temptation in the Desert.
In the community worship, he reads the dramatic prophecy, “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 the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
Then with equal drama, he rolls up the scroll, hands it back, walks to his seat and sits. As this dramatic pause earns him the full attention of the crowd, he proclaims, “Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
This wowed his audience—as we will see in next week’s Gospel.
This is the Christ of our faith, the Lord of History who proclaims that a new era has dawned, “a year acceptable to the Lord.” This is a powerful invitation for us to be immersed in our time and place. This is both an invitation and reminder to us to live out our Christian identity and mission or vocation.
This past week, I was in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, for the wedding of a former student. The groom’s family are close friends; all three sons were my students, as was the bride’s brother, plus her father was my batchmate in grade school and high school and a close friend.
The night before the wedding, the bride’s father and I talked at length about what he calls shining moments in his life; what I call defining moments.
He shared two such moments when he, in a good deed to someone in need, realized in a profound way that what we have been “trained” to be—a man with and for others—was there. The second moment was when he discovered in a very real-life situation that it was in God alone that he found strength; God is his source of strength and power.
Mine was when I first realized with clarity what God wanted me to do, to be a teacher, and to guide or mentor people in the journey to discover and live out their mission.
As we called it a night and I went up to my room and prepared for bed, the conversation kept on “replaying” in my mind and heart. As I write this, I could not help but feel that these shining moments are similar to Christ’s moment in today’s Gospel—“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”
I could not help but feel that our shining or defining moment is a moment of grace that not only makes us feel good, but also makes us realize the indescribable goodness of God and know that He is intimately with us. In one graceful movement, we proclaim not just this goodness, but the imperative to make our time and place good.
Over a year ago, I shared similar thoughts. I called it our epiphanies, moments when we experience the harmonious beauty of our life, God’s presence, God himself, love, joy and peace. I cited Paulo Coelho’s description of such a moment in “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept.”
“We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen. Every day, God gives us the sun—and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy. Every day, we pretend we do not perceive that moment, that it doesn’t exist… But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover the magic moment…a moment when all the power of the stars becomes part of us and enables us to perform miracles.”
There are such moments when we reintegrate and we are not the same again. Our life assumes a beauty found in a life lived with purpose and mission.
More important—or maybe equally important—is we believe we can “perform miracles” when we realize and accept this moment.
Yes, we can perform miracles.
Fr. Randy Sachs, S.J., of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus said in his homily in the early 1990s that the miracles of Christ did not prove his divinity. His miracles showed the great compassion of God.
The fruit of this moment is when our life becomes a life given to God and to others—to proclaim God’s goodness, love, grace, presence, joy and peace to others. We perform miracles showing God’s presence and love in our sphere of influence, where we are and however we can.
This is the grace we are reminded of in this Sunday’s Gospel. There is that moment when we discover we can make our world better, and perform the miracles of letting God and his love and compassion be seen and felt by people.
In a world that is growing more complex, yet more connected; more affluent as a whole, but marginalizing greater numbers in some sectors; in a world of growth and paradox, we need to rediscover the context of Christ’s message.
Miracles are performed by people like you and I. We are all called to discover that moment and to perform miracles in our life to show the love and compassion of God. Take courage; Christ continues to be the Lord of History—yesterday, today and forever.