New Creations: context

Baptism-Jesus29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. 30 He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ 31 I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” 32 John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. 33 I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ 34 Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34)

Context. We begin the new liturgical year’s ordinary time with the beginning of John’s gospel. What precedes our Sunday gospel is the very rich and complex Prologue to the Fourth Gospel. Where Mark begins with the gospel message, Luke and Matthew begin with the birth narratives, John takes us back to the time before Time to reveal the eternal purpose of God. Continue reading

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Are you Jesus?

jesus-and-child“Are you Jesus?” It is a question I get asked on occasion, most often because of the Franciscan habit that I wear. Lots of times the question comes from small children. Their picture books show Jesus in his robes and then they see me. I suspect the question is more about my Franciscan robes. Maybe on my good days it is about me. Maybe, just maybe there was a moment when I was Jesus for them.

The question is also asked at the hospital. Much of the time when we are called out in the middle of the night for “last rites” the patient is intubated and not conscious. But sometimes the patient is still with us. You can imagine the scene: The person, knowing death is near, has turned their thoughts to life after death. I enter the darkened room with the light shining from behind me, interrupting their silent prayer and thought; what they see is the outline of the One to whom they have been praying. “Are you Jesus?” In that moment, in the name of the Church, perhaps I am – or at least the presence of Christ as I bring the community’s final prayer and viaticum – the Holy Eucharist for the final journey home. Continue reading

Nazareth: today

JesusIconNazarethThe Poor, Captive, Blind and Oppressed. It is important to note that this mission is specifically directed at the needs of people: poor, captive, blind, oppressed. Significantly, Jesus’ work will be good news to the poor. Mary’s prayer (1:52-52; the Magnificat) praises the Lord for lifting up the lowly and sending the rich away empty. Later, Jesus announces God’s blessing on the poor (6:20) and then refers to the fulfillment of the charge to bring good news to the poor in his response to John (7:22). The poor also figure more prominently in Jesus’ teachings in Luke than in any other Gospel (14:13, 21; 16:20, 22; 18:22; 21:3). Continue reading

Nazareth: spirit

JesusIconNazarethAs noted, this passage begins with a reference to Jesus being “in the power of the Spirit.” While there are no doubt some implicit Trinitarian ideas here, the OT should serve as the means of understanding the direction of Luke’s narrative. The OT metaphors of wind (Heb: ruach – breath, wind, spirit), smoke, and cloud, as well as fire, were ways of talking about the active presence of God in the world. Even though the single Hebrew term is translated in various ways even when used of God, this idea became a way to talk about God in terms of his immediate activity in the world. The idea behind the Hebrew term ruach expressed the immanence of God in the world and encompassed his willingness and power to act in human history. This idea carried over into most of the NT since the equivalent term in Greek (pneuma) carries the same varied meaning. As well, this “power of the Spirit” also points to a commissioning of prophets and enabling of leaders to carry out their mission. Continue reading

Nazareth: first words

JesusIconNazarethHow appropriate that the first record of public ministry is the very living Word made flesh sharing the Word of God. Luke records these first spoken words of Jesus’ ministry:

18 “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, 19 and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Continue reading

Nazareth: synagogue

JesusIconNazarethHe came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read 17 and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written…” (Luke 4:16-17)

The Gospel of Mark has a similar account but records it later in Jesus’ public ministry near the end of the ministry in Galilee (Mark 6:1-6a). Luke reports the account at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In doing so, Luke highlights the initial admiration (Luke 4:22) and subsequent rejection of Jesus (Luke 4:28-29) and presents it as a foreshadowing of the whole future ministry of Jesus. Moreover, the rejection of Jesus in his own hometown hints at the greater rejection of him by Israel (Acts 13:46). Luke’s account seems to have at least two emphases: (a) the announcement of Jesus’ ministry as the fulfillment of God’s promises from the OT in general, but in Isaiah in particular; and (b) a statement about the context of Jesus’ ministry (cf. Luke 4:18-19). In each case, the prophet Isaiah serves as the fulfillment text.

Brief as it is, Luke’s introduction to the ministry in Galilee gives the reader an indication of the nature of Jesus’ work (teaching), one of its common settings (the synagogues), the source of its power (the Spirit), its result (praise), and its extent (to all). Continue reading

Admonition Seven

Years ago I was invited to lunch with the teaching staff at a seminary in Kenya. I walked in on the middle of a good-natured debate.  On one side were the two scripture scholars – on the other side of the debate was the entire remainder of the staff.  The proposition was whether studying Scripture was the shortest route to losing one’s faith. Everyone was a faithful believer and the debate was all in good fun taking the opportunity to poke fun at their friends. Continue reading

Flying

As Christian we are Pentecost people gifted in the Spirit: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God – writes St Paul in the 1 Corinthians. But these gifts of service and work – all stemming from the same Grace – all gifted in order to build up the Body of Christ – these gifts are founded upon the deeper gifts of the Spirit given: wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 11). I have been thinking about the gift of courage. Continue reading