Friends I want to share three messages with you today- the first being the importance of the Word of God, the second being the importance of the Power of the Holy Spirit and the thirdy a reflection on the mission that we have to bring good news to others.
I hope you were uplifted by tonight’s Gospel reading of Jesus announcing his mission, by echoing the words of Isaiah 61. It is a key piece of Scripture. I saw this Gospel being played out in modern day Nazareth a few years ago on a study tour to the Holy Land. In the centre of Nazareth they have reconstructed for educational purposes , a village complete with real people in period costume , animals, buildings and crops, depicting life as in the time of Jesus, giving insight into the context of his messages.
As part of the educational program, it was explained to us how shortly after Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan and spent a 40 day retreat up in the hills, he returned to his home town of Nazareth – an obscure Jewish community planted in Gentile territory. We were taken to a re-creation of the synagogue where Jesus would have worshipped. An actor representing Jesus then came into the synagogue, picked up the scroll of Isaiah and proclaimed this liberating scripture with power and gusto. There was acclamation all around. However he then went on and explained that this Gospel was not just about the Jewish people, this message was meant for all people, especially the Gentiles that lived in that area. Some people in the crowd were unhappy with this and demanded that he be ejected. Jesus headed off down to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee where he started gathering disciples and commencing his ministry of preaching and healing to all.
This re- enactment experience had a powerful impact upon me. It touched my soul. And it continues to inspire me today to a ministry of compassion to others. What we have heard in the scripture today is really Jesus manifesto – what his whole purpose is about – a mission statement for all Christians to embrace, particularly in this year of Mercy.
Jesus didn’t come to build churches schools or hospitals. He came to initiate a mindset of transforming mission. The church enables the mission, but the missionary outcome of transformed lives always has to be our focus. Pope Francis echoes this approach every day.
This scriptural story can be an inspiration for us all, because the Spirit of the Lord is available to all of us, to help us deal with any challenge in life. We were all anointed with holy oil at our baptism and confirmation, to be people who bring good news to people, and help the afflicted, to help people see the love of God in us.
This is spiritual power in these words of Jesus. Of course, many other scriptural passages that can give us inspiration too. Our first reading told us how in the time of Ezra, the people listened all day to the Word of God which was translated by him into practical application . Our Archbishop Mark is a scripture scholar and is always encouraging us to to be nourished by scripture. We can feed on the Word of God like daily bread. It truly can give us life. Indeed if we are not receiving some daily scriptural input we could be spiritually undernourished. I’ll give you a brief personal example of how I respond to this. Some of you would know that my current ministry is to provide pastoral care to war veterans and their families through the ministry called Veterans Care, This scripture passage inspires us to do what we do. We have a ministry team of young service people who go out and engage with veterans and their families, and share good news with them. We remind them that they are loved and can be healed and restored to wholeness; that they can be liberated from the behaviours and addictions that might limit them. It is not easy work. Many veterans now have significant disabilities and dysfunctional family situations, and humanly we could be discouraged from thinking we could achieve much at all.
But I know the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit will lift us and guide us in ways that will help us to help those in need. Every morning, I pray the Prayer of the Church and reflect on the scriptures of the day. I then send out to my pastoral team on Facebook, a message from one of the scriptural texts for the day. I keep reminding them that this ministry, indeed any ministry, needs to be spiritually and scripturally based. We can do very little without the power of the Holy Spirit, and to get in touch with the Holy Spirit we need to be inspired by the word of God. And of course the result is that day by day we see God at work in healing the lives of the needy, and sustaining us in commitment.
Friends there are many, many missions, any many, many needs in our community and it is my hope and prayer that each one of us here will continue to see that we have a particular role to play in Gods great mission. As we become aware of what Gods daily mission is for us, I just pray that we will call to mind that the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, ready to empower us to bring hope, healing, and love to those around us. This mission that Jesus took up is our mission too. It is certainly my hope that all of us here will be aware more aware of the significance of the nourishment available in the Word of God, be confident in the power of the Holy Spirit, and be people with a mindset of being missionaries that bring the good news of Jesus Christ to those around us.
Friends , The Spirit of the Lord is upon us … Let us rejoice and be glad.