GOD'S WORD TODAY - Manuel V. Francisco, S.J. -

A continuing today. This is the constant, never-ending Presence of Christ to all who place their faith in him. Today’s Gospel message ends with Christ’s own words: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (From Lk. 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21). And what is that Scripture passage?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor….” (v. 18). The poor here means both the materially poor and the poor in spirit. This does not mean that Christ approves of socio-economic injustice that renders so many people materially poor. But the materially poor individual as individual is loved by God unconditionally.

Moreover, the materially rich individual who is poor in spirit is likewise loved by Christ unconditionally. And who is this person? The materially rich individual who lives a lifestyle of stewardship, simplicity, and sharing. Such is the materially rich person who acknowledges that his riches are not really his own, but he is simply a steward or administrator of God’s resources. This leads him to a more simple lifestyle, distinguishing his needs from luxuries. He thus uses his riches precisely in reaching out to those who need his time, talents, and treasures. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5: 3). Those who have are to share what they have with those who do not have, as motivated by the love and compassion of God.

In our country today, the legal right to unlimited private ownership urgently needs radical reform, according to God’s designs. Right now, it is illegal for a very poor man to steal a supot of pandesal, but there is nothing illegal for a rich man to keep hoarding more food and other possessions than he can ever use in his lifetime.

Still in this context, what more does Christ quote in today’s Gospel reading? “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind…. (v. 18). There are many forms of captivity, and the most common is the captivity by one’s own EGO, so that such ego takes the place of God. This ego can be personal-individual, or family-clan ego, or community-ego, or national-ego. But when everything is said and done, we know deep in our hearts and humble awareness that in this life, God is the only Absolute. Everything else is relative. Everything. From all that I am, to all that I have, starting with my very life. As the spiritual writer Albert Nolan has emphasized in his jewel of a book, Jesus Today, the greatest enemy of the human person is his/her ego. A radical freedom from the ego is the beginning of my oneness with God.

To continue the Scripture text: “He has sent me to proclaim…recovery of sight to the blind.” There are also many forms of blindness, from physical to psychological to emotional to spiritual. These are what St. Ignatius calls inordinate attachments. We develop emotional programs for happiness and become inordinately attached to them. One way of becoming aware of this is to ask the question: “What are my greatest fears in life?” Underneath these fears are our inordinate attachments, one of which is the fear of death. In other words, I am afraid to die because of my inordinate attachment to life.

Whatever form of blindness I may be suffering from there is the ever-loving Christ to help me regain my sight, provided I surrender myself to him, and not to my ego. “Everything is precious because it is from God, and yet everything is relative precisely because everything is precious only in relation to God.” (P. Divarkar).

In this context, Christ taught and lived to the hilt what was unheard of in his time: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” (Lk. 6: 27-36; Mt. 5: 43-48). As a response to the soldiers who mocked him and inevitably crucified him, Christ prayed: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing.” (Lk. 23: 34). He condemned sin but not the sinner. He loved and loves every human person on this earth.

All of mankind are one, big family of God the Body of Christ as our Second Reading for today tells us. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons…. Now the body is not a single part, but many. You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.” (1 Cor. 12: 12-14, 27). Unquestionably and unconditionally, God loves every human person in this world. This is the lifelong mission for each one of us, no matter what nationality, culture, and institutional religion we may belong to. We are all called to love and be Good Samaritans to one another. Amen.

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