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Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bishop Stephen Blaire
Bishop of Stockton, CA

January 24, 2010

Published on the Diocese of Stockton website

Given by the Most Reverend Stephen E. Blaire at the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton.

Jesus began His public ministry in Galilee, going into the Synagogue in Nazareth, announcing the kingdom of God. The power of the Holy Spirit would lead him from there to Capernaum, through Samaria, to Jerusalem and ultimately to glory by means of His passion, death and resurrection. Luke’s gospel, which we are reading in the current liturgical year, characterizes Jesus primarily as a teacher. Beginning in the synagogue, after reading from Isaiah the prophet, Jesus folded up the scroll and announced to the people: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In Luke’s gospel, the ministry of Jesus fulfills all the promises of God which are found in the writings and the prophets of the Old Testament. Of great interest to us is that Jesus did not fulfill God’s promises in so much a spiritual way, but by very real, physical, economic and social actions.

The words read by Jesus from Isaiah are an artistic adaptation by Luke: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me,” (listen carefully to the very real descriptions) “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.” Jesus has come to bring relief and healing to the poor, the imprisoned, the sick, the oppressed, those in debt. Even more, Luke’s gospel is not restricted to just our own. Luke’s gospel is universal. Christ has come for all.

As followers of Christ we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit to carry on the work of Christ through the Church in our own lives as disciples. We understand our discipleship, our Christianity, our love for God and our love for our neighbor, has to be real. We never stop caring for the poor, even though at times we may be worn out or even emotionally exhausted or even taken advantage of. We never give up on anyone, even those imprisoned, many of whom we regard as the dregs of society, but nevertheless are still human beings. No one is beyond redemption. We have all seen amazing conversions.

We want the best of care for those who are ill. Whether or not you agree with the various particulars of the proposed health care legislation, health care is a fundamental human right for all, and all means all. Christ came to set all people free.

There is so much oppression in the world: terrorism, sexual slave trade, dirty water, inadequate health care, political oppression, exploitation of natural resources, destruction of the unborn, racism, bigotry, genocide, and on and on. We are anointed to let the oppressed go free. We do whatever we can in our own particular situation in life.

There is an unexplainable happiness in being part of a Church which is married to Christ. Again Carol Houselander: “The joy of God is a wine that changes the drab, cold, colorless substance of human nature into the rich, crimson warm vitality of supernatural life. It changes discouragement to hope, doubt to faith, it lights up the mind….Who can work such a miracle but Christ?”

I especially look at the heroic efforts of the doctors, the nurses, the relief workers, the military support, and the Church workers in Haiti.

Even before the earthquake Catholic Relief Services had 300 workers in Haiti. You support Catholic Relief Services each year when we take up the annual collection, and now in this special collection. Likewise we are committed as Christians to debt relief. To proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord refers to the Jubilee Year for relief of debt. This means that the economy must not be seen primarily as a means for profit, but as a way to help people to live in a decent manner able to sustain themselves by meeting their basic human needs: food, clothing, housing, health care, especially through employment. The economy is for people and their well being.

Care for the poor, the imprisoned, the sick, the oppressed, those in debt, is innate to the Christian conscience. I know this from the extraordinary response from all our Catholic people to Haitian relief. Because we love God and our neighbor, we join with people of good will everywhere in being generous to a fault.

With Jesus we say: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me.”

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