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Poor in Spirit
Monday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
He 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 and 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 the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come before you in prayer. I need your grace. Please help me to be open and docile to your message to me today. Increase my faith, that I may discover you in all things. Increase my hope, that I may believe in your fidelity even when you seem silent. Increase my love, that I may embrace you in all circumstances.
- Bringing Glad Tidings to the Poor: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor… 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.” Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah, which pointed to a messianic promise. This promise was not one of kingly power and might where the enemies of Israel were conquered, but rather a reference to the jubilee year that brought about the remission of debt, itself an image for Jesus’s coming for the remission of sin (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament). This promise taps into man’s keen awareness that something is wrong; he knows himself to be poor, captive, blind, and oppressed. Man senses that humanity suffered from a kind of primordial shipwreck (Chesterton, Orthodoxy, loc. 875-880). Man knows he needs a savior.
- What Good Did Jesus Bring?: As we look around at this broken world, a world that still contains the poor, the captive, and the blind, we can wonder what good Our Lord’s sacrifice has brought. Pope Benedict XVI asked precisely this question in his book, Jesus of Nazareth. The answer he gave was that thanks to Jesus we now know God’s face and can call upon him (p. 33). By calling upon Jesus and opening ourselves to his grace, we may enter into a friendship with him meant to be everlasting. Jesus’s work has not eradicated evil and death in this world, but they no longer have the last word—his Resurrection and life do.
- Who Does Jesus Think He Is?: Our Lord’s listeners marveled at the wisdom coming from his mouth, and yet they rejected him: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” Jesus always gives us enough information to follow him if we choose, and just enough space to avoid or deny him, again, if we choose. Pope Benedict XVI said, “Since faith demands our whole existence, our will, our love, since it requires letting go of ourselves, it necessarily always goes beyond a mere knowledge… And because that is so, then I can always turn my life away from faith and find arguments that seem to refute it” (God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 33). To meet Jesus is to face a choice. Our response to Jesus tells us more about our disposition than about him. Thankfully, Our Lord is both patient and persistent.
Conversing with Christ: Dear Lord Jesus, I want to thank you for bringing me–a poor and needy sinner–your mercy, grace, and love. May I be always receptive to your message. I realize that you will always challenge me to learn and live according to your criteria, not mine. Help me to be your instrument of grace to those around me, so they too may discover your mercy and your grace.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will share a simple word of encouragement with someone, gently reminding them of your grace and fidelity.
For Further Reflection: Read “What Does ‘Poor in Spirit’ Mean?”
Written by Fr. John Bullock, LC.