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Recognizing Jesus' Identity

January 24th

Hearing snippets of the Gospel, as we do each week, it is sometimes hard to get a sense of this "orderly account" of which Luke writes. Let me take a moment and try to offer a sense of where Luke is taking us. Luke begins Jesus' public ministry with his baptism.  We learned that Jesus was at prayer and had a profound religious and human experience, the most profound anyone can have. He became aware, undoubtedly and absolutely, that he was God's beloved Son.  And Luke tells us he was filled with God's spirit.

This Same Spirit drives Jesus into the desert and there he is challenged, as we shall see the First Sunday of Lent, as to what it means to be God's beloved.  Satan will suggest that "beloved" means privileged status: "Say to these stones turn into bread and they will".  Jesus refuses this "self-centered" understanding of himself as the "Son of God".   (Please note in the Lenten Gospel, Luke tells us that Satan will return for another try).  And in this Gospel, Jesus, "filled with the power of the Spirit", returns to his home in Galilee.

But there is more, Jesus, this "Spirit filled Son of God" continues to clarify who he is and what is his mission.  If he is not a self-centered Son of privilege, then who is he?   A moment of high drama:  Jesus is given a scroll to read in the synagogue.  But instead of doing the assigned reading, he deliberately and purposefully selects a certain passage from Isaiah which reveals his identity and mission.  Jesus has been thinking about this, Jesus has been praying about this.  He is searching for the right words that spell out why he has come.

And he selects a passage from Isaiah: a mission of liberation.  Whenever human life is impoverished, imprisoned or impaired, he has come to enrich, to free, and to enable.  To be the Son of God is not a title of privilege but a mission of redemption, even when it means the sacrifice of his life for us.  Do you see Luke's connection: from the baptism to the temptation, to this moment in the synagogue:  He is beloved, he is tested, and he clarifies. And throughout the Gospel, Jesus will be impelled by the Spirit of God.  Even as in Luke's second volume, The Acts, Christians will be impelled not by their own cleverness to live and proclaim the Gospel but by the Spirit of Jesus.

After Jesus sits down, the air is so tense you could cut it with a knife.  After all, isn't this Son of Mary and Joseph?  And to up the ante, Jesus proclaims, Isaiah's text may be a prophecy, but I tell you what you have heard in this prophecy has begun today in my ministry. And so, as my father used to say, "Don't tell them about what happened long ago, tell them about now, the present moment."

So let us try to apply.  First, what Jesus experienced at his baptism is available to us.  We are baptized, and that we know we are God's beloved sons and daughters.  His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.  Second, we are moved by the Spirit.  Not just our religious activity, but every choice and action is under the inspiration of the Spirit, after all in our Confirmation we were sealed with the gift of the Spirit.  Thirdly, every day we face temptation.  We are offered a short cut, the easy way out, to put ourselves as no. 1 to the exclusion of others.  And we know this is a squandering of our birth right as God's chosen people.  Fourthly, today, not tomorrow, but today begins our mission following in the merciful footsteps of Jesus;  to defend and lift up human life.  Especially where it is threatened and demeaned, especially in the most vulnerable among us: the unborn, the elderly, the refugee, the immigrant.  I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.

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Monsignor Fred Nijem

Father Kevin O'Keefe
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Jim Hunt

Ron Simons

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