GLAD TIDINGS

3rd Sunday of Advent        

            You have your favorite books, your favorite movies, your favorite TV programs. You know your children’s favorite food, their favorite sports, their favorite toys, their favorite songs, their favorite stories. I hope they also have favorite bible stories and you have your own favorite bible passages.

            Well, Jesus had his own favorite scriptural passages. During the time of Jesus, there was no New Testament, no Gospels, he had only the Old Testament to read. One of the favorite Scripture passages of Jesus is an excerpt from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, which he heard in today’s first reading: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.”

            Jesus quoted this passage as told in Luke 4:16ff. After quoting this passage from the Prophet Isaiah, Jesus said, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus was the one upon whom the Spirit of the Lord was given. He was anointed and sent by God to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken, to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison and to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord. This is how Jesus defined his mission of liberation.

            Kung ito ang misyon ni Kristo, eh, ito rin ang misyon natin! Through baptism the Holy Spirit has consecrated us for this mission – the liberating and saving mission of Christ. Just like Jesus, we have been anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We ought to remind ourselves of this and say with conviction: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.”

            Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, says, “Today and always, the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel.” “And the fact that it is freely preached to them is a sign of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish.” According to the Holy Father, the Christian faith and its Good News must be made manifest and concrete through our solidarity and service of the poor and the needy. The poor must experience the joy of the Gospel through us.

            Pope Francis reminds us that our poor brethren are part of the Body of Christ. And the Holy Father emphasizes that in the wounds of the poor we touch the wounds of the poor Christ. Jesus himself tells us, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers (and sisters) of mine, you did for me.”

            Again, we have to translate our Christian faith and the Good News into practical terms, particularly through acts of mercy. This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. “Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently.” “The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.” “Among all of these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.”

            Jesus’ mission is our mission! It is in our faithfulness to our mission and witnessing to Christ that we discover and experience communion with Christ. To find Christ we must look among the least of his sisters and brothers. The Lord Jesus is found where the unlovable is loved, the neglected is cared for, the grieving is comforted, the suffering is shown compassion, the sinner is forgiven.

            Let me repeat what I said in one of my homilies last Sunday: If we are really serious in fulfilling our Christian mission we need to work at three things: Simplify our lifestyle, share our resources, and fight for social justice. To simplify our lifestyle is to consume less for ourselves. To share our resources is to give more of what we have to others. To fight for social justice is to work so that there will be enough for all. We can translate this into a motto – and this must become our life-principle: “Less for self, more for others, enough for all.”

            The Lord’s message for us today is: “Honor me by imitating me… Follow me by proclaiming the Good News… Proclaim the Good News by liberating the poor… Liberate them by becoming food and drink, shelter and refuge, wellbeing and fullness of life for them… BE EVERYTHING FOR THE POOR! That is how you can truly honor me.         

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