Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jesus' Mission - And Ours

Every successful business or organization begins with a mission statement.

Usually no longer than a paragraph, a mission statement is a summary of the purpose and values of an institution. It crystallizes and gives focus to the organization’s time and resources. Finally, it gives people outside the group an idea of what they are all about.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus proclaims to us His mission statement. Reading from the prophet Isaiah, He declares to those gathered in the synagogue - and to us sitting here today - what He is all about. By reflecting on these words, we can gain deeper insight into the mystery of who Jesus is and what He was sent to do.

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.  

First of all, Jesus is the One sent by the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. His proclamation in the synagogue follows His baptism in the Jordan River when the Holy Spirit came down upon Him. It is by the power of God that He acts. Jesus is no mere activist or do-gooder trying to make the world a better place through convincing arguments and charitable works. His power does not come from His ideas or His organizational skills. Rather it comes from the Spirit of God at work in Him. Therefore He is not just one prophet in a long line of prophets or just one reformer in a long line of reformers. Instead He is THE  prophet. He is THE One sent to bring about the salvation that God had promised.

Secondly, Jesus came not only to preach God’s word but to show His mercy in concrete acts on behalf of the poorest of the poor. The Spirit of God at work in the world through Jesus brings about freedom, healing and forgiveness. We see this play out throughout the gospels. Jesus releases many people from captivity by driving demons out of them. When the woman was caught in adultery and about to be stoned by the Pharisees, He won her freedom and refused to condemn her. Whenever He encountered the blind, the deaf and lepers, He never failed to heal them when approached Him with faith. He forgave the sins of the paralyzed man who was brought down to Him through a roof and promised the thief who was crucified beside Him that He would be with Him in Paradise.

Today’s gospel tells us all we need to know about Jesus. He is the One who in the power of the Holy Spirit brings freedom, healing and forgiveness.
If we hear Jesus’ mission statement in the gospel, then we hear our own mission statement as His followers in today’s second reading:

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body....
You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.

First of all, through baptism, we received the Spirit of God. This is the same Spirit that empowered Jesus to bring freedom, healing and forgiveness to the world. What sets us apart as believers is that we do not try to accomplish good works through our own skills and effort. Rather we do it in the power of the Spirit we received at our baptism. As was the case with Jesus, it is God at work in us making us holy and enabling us to do more good than we could ever do on our own. It is only by abandoning ourselves daily to the Holy Spirit and being obedient to His promptings that we can accomplish more than we could ever hope for or imagine.

Secondly, through baptism we become members of Christ’s body. Now that Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father, He accomplishes His work through us. He is the head and we are the body. If Jesus is to bring freedom, healing and forgiveness to the world today, it has to be through us. As Saint Teresa of Avila said so beautifully, “Christ has no hands now but yours.” As is the case with our bodies, every member is important and necessary. We cannot function well without our heart, or our fingers of our kneecaps. So we as a Church cannot be fully who we are unless everyone contributes. If there are people in today’s world who continue to suffer and who are ignorant of Jesus and His saving power the only reason can be that we have failed to help them in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. However, if we give ourselves over to the work of the Spirit, if we step outside our comfort zone to console someone who is hurting, to give a hand to someone who has fallen down or to offer food to a homeless person, God’s power will be released into this hurting world and it will be forever changed.

Jesus continues to bring good news to the poor, to release captives, to give sight to the blind and to proclaim favor from the Lord through us, His body on earth. We can only do it through the strength that He gives us. By offering ourselves to His service no matter how few skills we think we may have, we will witness great things. The smallest good works done with love have infinite potential through His Spirit at work in us. The world needs us. Jesus needs us. What will our answer be?

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