January 24 2016
The Gospel by LK 1:1-4; 4:14-21
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There is a psychological test that is given to people in therapy in which a piece of paper is stained with ink and the person is asked to describe what she sees. It is the same drawing, yet every person sees something different.
I went to see a woman who was suffering from depression; she had been abused by her father and neglected by her mother. She felt worthless and was contemplating killing herself. Nora, her twin sister, was confused as for her they both had a perfect childhood.
Two sister living in the same house, same parents and yet different recollections of their childhood: Nora believed that Helen made up the story, while her sister thought that Nora was blind and never saw the abuse.
Science has studied the effect of perception: why people, who see the same picture, live in the same house and hang out with the same friends experience life differently. That’s what happens in today’s Gospel.
Luke begins with a disclaimer that he has seen other people’s writing and that he is not happy with them, so he will write the “true gospel” to set the record straight. If you think about it, Luke wrote about 20 years after the Gospel of Mark and Mathew. He had a copy of them while writing. I wonder what he saw in Mark and Mathew that he did not like and decided to investigate further in order to write his gospel. Remember, that Mark, Mathew and Luke were not apostles. Although, they bear the name of two of Jesus’ disciples, it is believed that they claimed the name and wrote on their behalf. Luke says it very clearly that when he talks about those who were eyewitness (which means he was not one of them). This is important because we tend to forget that the gospels tell the same stories from different points of view.Now, let us try to see what is the message of Luke: Jesus is in the temple and people are waiting for him to speak, when Jesus finishes he proclaims that the scriptures are fulfilled at that very moment (meaning that the Spirit of God is resting upon him). What follows after this episode is people rejecting Jesus of being God. Why would they not listen?
Although we have schools everywhere, there are still people who cannot read or write. In Jesus’ time the majority of people did not know how to read or write. In fact there was no printing press. Books had to be copied by hand: most of the time they were written in giant scrolls. Scrolls were not only expensive, they were rare and not enough for people to read them and, of course, not available to simple people. The Synagogue was not a church like we think of it now days. The temple was a place to meet, talk and debate about tradition and the scriptures, they were more like a book club. The real liturgy or worship of God was done in the Temple of Jerusalem.
Just like people see things differently based on their experience; we all look at God and come to our own conclusions: for some people God is law, you have to go to church every Sunday, you have to marry in the church; you cannot do x or y and if you do you are condemned by God. Others see God as love and forgiveness is for everyone. Yet others see themselves somewhat in the middle. When Jesus appeared in their midst, they all wanted Jesus to proof them right, but He didn’t. He managed to show our limitations in the way we read the scriptures and interpret them. That made people furious as He claimed to know better and they did not believe that he was really coming from God.
These past weeks, Pope Francis has come with a message that is hard to swallow, especially because it focuses on accepting other religions and opening the church to everyone. Some people feel that he has gone overboard and has betrayed the Church, others consider him a real prophet speaking the word of God (even though it hurts to hear it). Now let’s go back to
Jesus sitting in the Synagogue explaining the scriptures. I can see myself sitting there and getting angry with God while he was speaking. I know that at times I think that I know better, that my way is better and that everyone else is wrong. I have a hunch that I am not the only one with this tendency. I suspect that many priests and bishops have found themselves rejecting what Pope Francis is saying, just like they would reject what Jesus preached when he was among us. Of course, I fancy myself to be one of the few who would really get his message and believe in him. But I have a hunch, that once more I am deceiving myself.
Jesus’ actions are to be imitated. Jesus baptism was not necessary, but he went through his baptism to show us the way. Today he claims that the Spirit of God is upon him, so that we can make the same claim. We know that Jesus received the Spirit of God as a son, but we can claim the Spirit as adopted children of God. The Spirit is available through his death and resurrection so that we can make the claim of being one with God.
However, it would be crazy to make such a claim if we continue to live a life that does not reflect the life of Christ. In fact when we call ourselves Christians, we are claiming that we have received the Spirit of God and that we are followers of Christ. This phrase is a commitment to a change in perspective and an acceptance of God as our Father.
Let us pray, therefore, that we have the courage to live life as children of God. Let us accept that same Spirit that Christ received in the synagogue and claimed as the fulfillment of the scriptures.
Fr. Marc Angelo, PO Box 3414, Culver City CA 90231. To listen to the sermons go to the webpage of Archangel’s church: http://archangelschurch.org/