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A down-to-earth ministry

Today’s reading from the beginning of the gospel according to St. Luke tells us that his intention is to write an ordered account of the story of Jesus.

He is doing this so that there will be a record of how well founded the account of the doings and teachings of Jesus is and stress the point that it has been handed on and received by the community of faith over successive generations.

Like John in last week’s reading, Luke says that Jesus returned to Galilee after his baptism in the Jordan with the power of the Spirit in him. However, he also adds the detail that he taught in the synagogues and that his reputation spread throughout the countryside.

Eventually, the momentous day came when he first spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth.

There, he defines his mission from the outset, by using the words of the prophet Isaiah, “To bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”

It is exhilarating to hear how this mission became central to our faith from the very first days it began to take shape in Galilee. It conveys a feeling for God’s commitment to our world, his favour. It clarifies our intention to work with God for the benefit of the downtrodden. It provides a measure of our achievement as a community of faith.

All of this may seem too much for us ordinary mortals; but it is not. Like Jesus we have received the Holy Spirit and his power is with us, as we undertake the mission that has been entrusted to us.

The climax reached in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as the son of God made man is described by St. Paul as both a new creation and God’s presence in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

“This divine-reconciling mission will be led by the Spirit until Christ comes again. Humanity is finally re-created, or reconciled in hope, beyond history, but the first fruit of that hope is already at work in history. The reign of God has already begun,” Enda McDonagh says in his book, Immersed in Mystery.

The story we have read today about Jesus commencing his ministry in such a low key way there in Galilee has an engaging simplicity. Much as we value that we must remember that it does not belong in the historical past.

It belongs in all times, in all places and in all lives. In fact, each one of the seven sacraments in seven different ways plays a role in identifying us with Jesus, so that we can become his co-workers, like the first disciples, in the down-to-earth realities of his mission to the world.

  l Diocese of Sandhurst Bulletin