Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.
This awesome, solemn statement comes true every time we open the Bible, or hear the readings proclaimed in Church or anywhere else, for that matter. While it is closed, the Bible is not different from any other book. However, as soon as we consciously interact with it, a real Person jumps out of those pages and offers us Life.
That Person, of course, is Jesus Christ, God’s Word.
Therefore, we are not dealing just with information, with uplifting messages, interesting stories, intriguing sentences any more, but we are confronted by the very and only Begotten Son of God talking to us and challenging us. The instinctive reaction would be one of hiding behind the façade, the front of a mere recollection of things that happened millennia, even several millennia ago. Alas, that might have been the case for most of our life and, before us, for most people who, through the centuries of the Church’s life, chose to shy away from Christ and be amused or, at best, edified by what they read in, or heard about what is in the Bible.
Arguably, most sins, most poor choices are the result of that mistake of refusing to interact with Christ as God’s Word spoken to us. As the template of our gospel passage (Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21) shows, the reason why the Father “speaks” His Son to us is that any word spoken a long, long time ago, is intended to become a “NOW,” and to place us into the “TODAY” of the Lord. The words of Isaiah that Jesus intentionally picked out from the past were made present to His audience in Nazareth and, likewise, are made present whenever they are heard any time, anywhere in the lives of God’s children.
In our human condition, we have a past, a fleeting present, and a future made up mostly of uncertain events and, hopefully, some favorable breaks. For the Father, for His Son Jesus and for the Holy Spirit, there is always and only a TODAY, a NOW in which any Scripture passage is fulfilled provided that the ears and the heart are open and the will is inclined to accept God’s generous and life-filled outpouring of grace.
Thus, every Sunday, as we gather for the Celebration of the Eucharist, we should have built up a high degree of expectation and hope, for ourselves, for our entire family and for our Community, about what the Lord would propose to do to dress our wounds and to make us ever-more-accurate replicas of Himself. To open our ears and our heart to the action of God’s Word means that now, this very day, without hesitation, is the time to stop ignoring the gentle yet firm voice we have heard and keep hearing inside; and let what God proposes become the grace-filled, joy-enriched reality that we truly need and that the Lord is “dying” to give us.
We cannot forget that, unless we are willing to let the Word spoken to us on any given Sunday, be fulfilled as we hear it, we turn our back on the One who shed the last drop of blood on the cross for us. Thus, we condemn ourselves to spiritual stagnation and even regression to a sorrier state for our soul because we would have foolishly overlooked that which the Resurrection proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that what God proposes is doable and it is always the best outcome for us.
With God all things are possible. (Mt. 19:26)
Today, too, the Lord is extremely generous with His Word. If we suffer from poverty of any kind, be it financial, emotional, psychological, mental poverty, the Lord can fill us with His riches by directing us to a way out of such poverty. If we grope in darkness about how to handle a difficult situation in the family or we are shaken to the core because our faith is dimmed, the Lord offers us the light of His Truth.
Were we to feel oppressed by crushing burdens of any type, the Lord can lighten the weight through the Sacraments or through a friend or some unexpected turn of events. His offer of liberty from whatever keeps us enslaved is always standing.
Freedom is the precious outcome of His Blood shed on the cross and of His Resurrection from the clutches of death itself. Freedom requires always a deliberate, yet, oftentimes, slow process of moving away from a situation that keeps us captive and powerless to grow in love; and a journey towards the realization of the full potential built in us by God Himself because we are made in His image. The bars of our prison can be dugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, overeating, unruly sex or anything else that leads us to self-destruction. But none of them can be a match for the Word that created the whole universe out of nothing!
Regardless of what so many misguided people might think, liberty is never license to do as we please, but the condition of being unfettered so that we, with God’s grace, can become more and more Christ-like. Total freedom is achieved at the point in which, sustained and guided by the Word, we free ourselves from any allurements and enslavements and surrender our fragile self into the hands of the Father. At that glorious point, all fears are gone, all worries are silenced and all energies are employed to love and serve our neighbor up to the full consummation of the new commandment of loving each other as Jesus loved us on the cross.
How can we possibly pass up this umpteenth opportunity to interact with Jesus as God’s Word?
How can we fail to enter into the NOW, the TODAY of our God and find Life and joy in Him?
Why on earth would we miss out on sharing with our family and Community in the joy that Jesus has won for us on the cross and in His Resurrection?
The Book of Nehemiah (8:2-4; 5-6, 8-10) offers us a vivid image of what happens when we, intentionally and wholeheartedly decide to DO God’s Word in the sweeping power of the Holy Spirit. Pristine emotions would take over our whole being. We might even want to weep for missed opportunities, or for sheer joy. At any rate, we should soon reach the point in which we can eagerly heed Esra’s suggestion and not be saddened, for rejoicing in the Lord must be our strength!