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The Spirit Of The Lord is Upon Us
by Stephen Bevans, SVD | January 24, 2013
Scripture Reflection for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 27, 2013)
Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15
1 Corinthians 12:12-30 (or 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27)
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
This Sunday we begin in earnest the “C” Cycle of gospel readings from the Gospel of Luke. We have been basically reading Luke since the beginning of the Liturgical Year with the First Sunday of Advent; and at the end of Advent and during Christmas we read Luke’s first chapters on Jesus’ birth and childhood. Now in “Ordinary Time,” though, we will read the Gospel of Luke “in order.” Today’s gospel starts, then, with its first lines, and then skips to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. For Luke, that beginning takes place in the synagogue in his hometown, Nazareth. It is here that we first hear Jesus speak in public, although we have heard in 4:14 that he has begun already to teach and was causing rather a sensation in Galilee.
To fully appreciate this “opening scene” of Jesus’ ministry, however, we need to look back at how Luke has portrayed Jesus already. We first meet the adult Jesus in the gospel at his baptism by John (3:21-22), when, as he was praying afterwards, the Holy Spirit came upon him in the form of a dove. Then, in chapter 4:1, we read that he returns from the Jordan “full of the Holy Spirit,” and was “led by the Spirit” into the desert to wrestle with the Spirit’s antithesis—the devil. Having won victory over the Evil Spirit, Luke relates in 4:14 that Jesus now returns to Galilee “filled with the power of the Spirit.” In our gospel reading today, he comes to Nazareth, on a sabbath, and so he attends sabbath services in the synagogue where he grew up. In the very formal way of synagogue reading and preaching that we’ve heard in our first reading today from the book of Nehemiah, Jesus stood to read, and we hear his public voice for the first time: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”!
What does it mean to have the Spirit of the Lord upon you? It means service; it means working for unity and healing: preaching the good news, working for liberation of any kind of captivity, giving sight to those who cannot see, giving ease to the oppressed, speaking of God’s grace and delight in people. The rest of Jesus’ ministry will be spent doing these things—preaching through parables, healing diseases, freeing people from the grip of evil, demonstrating in word and deed the graciousness of God. As we read through the gospel of Luke in the weeks to come (and then after Easter when Ordinary Time resumes) we will see Jesus doing this, and in the process incurring the wrath of those who would prefer people not to hear about good news, not to see the light of truth, blaming people for their sinfulness, putting God in a box. They will take their revenge on Jesus, but in death and resurrection Jesus will show them that he was right. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him!
And the Spirit of the Lord is upon us too! At Pentecost the church too was anointed to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to captives, give sight to the blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim the graciousness of God. This is what Paul tells us in our magnificent second reading—that we have been baptized in the one Spirit, that we were all given to drink of one Spirit. We are the body of Christ. We have each been given gifts like apostleship, teaching, administration, eloquence, ability to listen, ability to heal hurting hearts. The same Spirit that came upon Jesus has come upon us. We all have gifts. We need to discern what they are. We each need to do our part. The Spirit-filled Christ is alive in his church.
We are Catholics on Call. Like the people of Israel in our first reading, let us, as it were, raise our hands on high and say “Amen, Amen.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. God has anointed us.
Image: "Feet in Chains" by George Hodan Source: www.publicdomainpictures.net
Stephen Bevans, SVD
Steve Bevans is Professor Emeritus at Catholic Theological Union and the Faculty Moderator for Catholics on Call. He is a Roman Catholic priest in the Society of the Divine Word, an international missionary congregation, and served for nine years (1972-1981) as a missionary in the Philippines.
His publications include: Models of Contextual Theology (2002), Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today (2004, with Roger Schroeder), Evangelization and Freedom (2009, with Jeffrey Gros), and Introduction to Theology in Global Perspective (2009).
He is past president of the American Society of Missiology (2006) and past member of the board of directors of the Catholic Theological Society of America (2007-2009). In 2009 he was visiting lecturer at Yarra Theological Union in Melbourne, Australia, and in 2013 he was the only Catholic to speak at a Plenary at the Tenth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, Korea.