The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me
Compassion is a remarkable virtue for Christians to practice. It takes the focus away from our needs and desires to serve those less fortunate. I think of caregivers in private homes and in hospice care who sacrifice so much of themselves. I know of doctors and medical personnel who travel regularly to Africa to do surgeries and procedures in primitive circumstances that improve vision, hearing and mobility. There are those who volunteer in prisons; those who tutor underprivileged children; those who bring food to the poor. The list is endless, thank God. The Spirit of the Lord is truly upon them.
In today’s gospel Jesus is about to embark on his public ministry from his home town, Capernaum. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus announces that his calling is to bring glad tidings to the poor, an interior life of liberty and a new spiritual vision. The people do not understand this at first. But actions speak louder than words and soon the countryside is clamoring for Jesus’ message and his works of power. And Jesus delivers, much to the chagrin of the Jewish leaders. The Kingdom of God is at hand and all are invited to join it.
How should disciples of Jesus conduct themselves in our world? The short answer is to be like Jesus. From the Book of Exodus we learn about the Ten Commandments which warn us about the serious sins that separate us from God. But the Beatitudes and the parables of Jesus spell out the fine print of relating to God and neighbor: we are to see Jesus in all people. In other words, don’t tell me how much you love me but show me. Obviously we cannot help all the people in need. But we can help a few.
Pope Francis gave us an image of Church that is a gem. “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugar! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…And you have to start from the ground up.”
Elsewhere the Pontiff said; “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” In that sense the Church is a leaven in society that reminds everyone that they are loved by our Creator and are called to union with God and neighbor. We disciples of Jesus look to serve the crucified of today one person at a time. May the Spirit of the Lord be upon all of us.
Fr. Michael Salvagna, CP