She stood there,
eyes fixed to the ground,
like a question mark,
from the effort
of making do
She stood there,
close to the earth,
warped and kinked
beneath ragged homespun,
humped by the weight of years,
by the scorn
of upright men
who knew sin
when they saw it--
hers, her mother's
and generations of offenses
too vile to name.
She stood there,
in that holy place,
unclean and poor,
the jibes and jeers
of the righteous
as she waited
to save her
from the blistering burden
and the heavy heart,
from the crooked trudge
over rough terrain.
She stood there,
listening for that Word
which would straighten,
for that creative Word
to lift her eyes
to the stars
and set her dreaming.
Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, 1989
Greetings, SBT Readers:
The Mosaic shown above represents Jesus'
"Harrowing of Hell,"
that is, the tradition that between his Death and Resurrection, Jesus visited the underworld to release worthy souls held prisoner there; however, the image could equally-well apply to the liberation of those who are held captive, whether literally or metaphorically. The Risen Christ reaches down to those who have been swallowed by the "grave," to those devoured by all that is death-dealing. He is the Liberator whose reach extends beyond life and into death where those without hope reside. He has the power to release those gripped by sin, those immobilized by fear, those encased in hatred, those frozen in greed, those netted by addictions, those enmeshed by regrets, those bound by materialism, those chained by self-righteousness....
As Liberator, Jesus' concerns extend beyond the spiritual to our external circumstances. In the Gospel narratives, we see him liberating the sick from their illnesses, the possessed from their demons, the marginalized from their social isolation, the bereaved from their grief, the hungry from their need for food, those with disabilities from their physical limitations.... At all times, he stands with the poor and the oppressed, assuring them of God's inexhaustible love. Through his teachings and actions, he demonstrates the meaning of love in action (The Good Samaritan), the need to forgive and be forgiven (The Prodigal Son), the invitation to new beginnings (The Woman Caught in Adultery), the possibility of leading a spiritual life (The Samaritan Woman), the call to detachment (The Rich Young Man) and what the Church has come to describe as "God's preferential option for the poor" (The Beatitudes).
If we wish to imitate Christ, then we, too, must be liberators. This begins with letting go of all that ties us down (ego-identifications, materialism, a sense of entitlement, the desire to control everything) so that we can surrender all to God. Once we open our hands to God's grace, then the next step is to work towards the liberation of our suffering brothers and sisters. As long as we are attached to fear and to "things," and to the fear of losing the "things," we will be incapable of doing anything except protect our own vested interests.
Sunday Video Chat
is back! To all those who sent me their comments, thank you! I appreciate knowing that
helps you in your faith journey! This week's Chat was located at SpringBird Cottage, Dundee, IL. The video is rather dark but that is because the window behind me is my main "prop"!
Standing up to read, he 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 all in the synagogue
looked intently at him. He said to them,
"Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."
LK :1-4; 4:14-21
Generally attributed to disciples of the prophet Isaiah who were writing at the end of the Babylonian exile, Is 61:1-2 offers Good News to the exiles, the promise of the restoration of Jerusalem and the vindication of Israel. The captives in this text are literally the descendants of those who, during the years
were dragged in chains to Babylon during the reign of
King Nebuchadnezzar II; with the temple in ruins and their city destroyed, the Jews still clung to the hope that they would one day return to their homeland. This hope was fulfilled in 538 BCE when King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return to Israel so they could rebuild their city and temple.
When Jesus read from the scroll, he would have been aware of this historical context. The "blind" may have referred to those who, like King Zedekiah, were blinded as a punishment by their captors; the poor and the oppressed would, of course, have referred to the enslaved people. But Jesus was not referring to King Cyrus when he said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," but to himself; nor was he thinking of his long-dead ancestors, but of the people he had come to serve who were very much alive.
For Jesus, this powerful text offered a blueprint for his mission. Having experienced God's anointing at his baptism, and having spent 40 days in prayer, fasting and solitude, he returned to Galilee "in the power of the Spirit" (Lk 4:14). Then, as he stood in the synagogue in Nazareth, he proclaimed the text symbolically:
1) He had been called to bring "glad tidings" -- Good News-- to the poor, that is, to those who lacked spiritual or material assets, especially hope.
2) The "captives" were those who, gripped by sin and despair, had lost their moral compass; instead of trusting in God and following the Law, they had strayed from the path of righteousness and lived as if there were no God, in a state of moral darkness.
3) The "blind" were not only those who had lost their physical sight but also those who lacked spiritual vision. Blinded by ambition, greed, pride, hatred, fear and other manifestations of spiritual blindness, the metaphorically blind could no longer perceive the Divine Presence because of their spiritual shortcomings. Between them and God there now existed 100,000 veils of obscurity; moreover, the Light within them had been extinguished by their selfishness and they no longer shone with the glory of their Maker.
4) The "oppressed" were all those who suffered under the harsh rule of the Romans, as well as all who experienced the oppression of poverty, discrimination, illness. demonic possession, lack of faith and social isolation.
5) The "Year of Favor," like a Jubilee Year, was a year of liberation, restoration and new beginnings (cf.
The Isaiahn text continues with the promise that God will comfort all those who mourn: a diadem will replace ashes, the oil of gladness will wipe away sorrow, and the people will be vested in "a glorious mantle"-- the mantle of justice, the mantle of priesthood, the mantle of righteousness, For a full reading of the text, cf. Is 61:1-11.
What Jesus was saying was that he himself would inaugurate a new age of justice and prosperity in which the Kingdom of God would once again be accessible to all who accepted God's love and mercy.
How does Jesus fulfill this mission in YOUR life?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- What are the "glad tidings" that you need to hear this day?
- What "glad tidings" can you share with the world?
- How does God's healing power manifest in your life?
- What is your mission and in what ways is it similar to that of Jesus?