Today we see Jesus enter the synagogue on the Sabbath, "as he usually did.” He stands up to do the reading, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah is given to him. And he reads: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me, to bring good news 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." (Is 61)
The words of Isaiah are addressed to the materially poor, those in prison, the physically blind, the oppressed and the exploited. The message is one of hope, healing and liberation. But this message is not only for the materially poor but also for the spiritually poor, the emotionally poor, the outcast and the rejected. Even those who are surrounded by material wealth can be poor. Mother Teresa used to say that the countries that are the most rich are the most spiritually poor. All are poor for we are all in need of Jesus’ message of salvation, repentance and faith.
Physical blindness is one thing, but there is another blindness that can be far more afflicting. Prejudice, jealousy, ignorance, self-centeredness and other emotional blocks can be far more blinding than physical blindness. There is a spiritual darkness. When that overtakes us, the eyes of our souls cannot see. It keeps us from being exposed to the light of truth. Helen Keller once wrote: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
In the gospels Jesus is always concerned with the downtrodden, dejected, those who live on the margins, those who feel broken and crushed spiritually and physically. The circumstances of life have taken their toll, and they have no desire to go on. Jesus reminds us that he has come for our deliverance and desires to free us from oppression
In the Church we are in the midst of celebrating an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. When the Holy Father made the announcement of this Jubilee celebration he said: “Dear brothers and sisters, I have thought about how the Church can make clear its mission of being a witness of mercy. The mercy of God must be at the center. We must ‘feel mercy.’ This word changes everything. It’s the best thing we can feel; it changes the world.”
Snowy landscape by Brother Brian. Excerpts from this morning's homily by Father Emmanuel.