Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings 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.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing”(1. Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21). Taken from today’s Sunday gospel.
2. Luke begins his gospel by affirming that what he was about to communicate was a verified and authenticated version of the story of the man Jesus. It is a way of assuring his audience of the certitude of the Jesus’ teachings contained in his gospel. This sunday’s gospel presents in a global manner the central message of the life and ministry of Jesus.
3. It was just after the baptism by John at the River Jourdan. The Holy Spirit was seen descending on Jesus in the form of a dove and the Father’s voice was heard addressing him as his Beloved Son. From that moment Jesus began to minister in Galilee with power and authority. His fame rose very fast that his little town of Nazareth heard about him. It was at this time that he visited his village and like any other lay person, attended the sabbath celebration of the liturgy of the word. He was neither a priest nor a levite. He was just a villager sitting with other villagers in the synagogue. Having heard of his ministry in Galilee he was requested to help with the reading and homily for the day. He was given the freedom to choose the text. He chose the text of Isaiah 62, read a short text, close the scroll and gave the shortest homily ever, saying: “This text of Isaiah is fulfilled right now even as you listen.”
4. This short text which can be taken as the mission statement of Jesus’ ministry, presents Jesus as an anointed prophet who comes to liberate those who are living in any bondage. He has good news for the poor, the prisoner, the blind and the captive. These are simply the poor. In this way he affirms his preferential option for the poor. In Jesus we understand that preferential option for the poor does not mean just caring for the poor but allowing the situation of the poor to influence our decisions about life and comfort. Jesus could have acquired a palace and kept his doors open for the poor who would come to consult him about their problems but he chose to live like the poor, possessing nothing, not even a place to lay his head. He sleeps where the night meets him. Preferential option for the poor is a difficult virtue even for men of God today. In Pope Francis however, we find an exception. He rejected the papal palace and preferred to live in a studio. When he was gifted with a Lamborghini coupé he immediately auctioned it and gave the money to the poor.
5. Jesus’ preferential option for the poor is a sign of hope to us today. It is an assurance that we have a liberator willing to give up everything in our defense, one who died to set us free. Anyone passing through oppressive situation can gladly look up to him asking for help. His mission has not changed. He died to set people free. He continues his mission even after his death. When Cardinal Sin of Philippine, for example, gathered his prayer warriors against the oppressive President Ferdinand Marcos, Jesus showed himself a liberator of the oppressed who cannot be indifferent to a people’s cry for liberation by turning the military against the government in a very dramatic way. You too have the same liberator.
6. Jesus’ preferential option for the poor is a call to all his followers to become liberators. Being a Christian and at the same time an oppressor is a contradiction in terms. Like Jesus you are to consciously allow the condition of the poor around you to influence your affluent choices and moderate you social and material appetites. You are not only to help the poor. You have to identify with the poor through the choices you make. This is certainly not an easy virtue but you can start somewhere and grow with time. Begin by being a sign of hope to whoever encounters you, a liberator and a joy giver.