Imagine the drama. Jesus stands up in his hometown synagogue, unrolls the massive scroll of the prophet Isaiah and reads aloud this passage:
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.
Then in just a nine word homily (you should be so lucky) he proclaims, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
What a powerful moment, to be able to claim such authority, to announce a new day has begun because the Spirit of the Lord which touched the great prophet had now come to rest on Jesus. I wish that I could proclaim such lofty goals and then say I can make them a reality.
Of course I can. You see, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me. And if you are baptized, he has done the same to you. We are not just spectators who claim the name of Christ and sit back and wait with bated breath as he prepares to launch a new world. No, as sharers of the same Spirit as Jesus, we are in the game, dedicated to make this vision a living thing, a way of life. This is what we are called to; this is what we are made for.
And it begins with preaching the good news to the poor, to promising liberty to captives, sight to the blind and justice for the oppressed. Why must it begin in this way? Because the Word of God does not miss a thing. It hits every blade of grass. If even those who are most easily ignored, the ones we must go out of our way to find, the least powerful and obvious, if even they are promised the kingdom, then everyone is included. The word of God does not start at the top and then hopefully seeps to where it is least expected. It begins with the poor and disenfranchised the forgotten and discarded. They are our first priority. To make a new world in Christ we must begin where he did where the divisions we see are obliterated by the grace of God.
That is what St. Paul saw as the result of Christ’s action. The things we thought separated us no longer exist. Jews saw nothing as important a division as between true believers and not, between Jews and Greeks. Now there are no Jews or Greeks. It does not even matter if you are a slave or free. We have all melted into the Body of Christ. Jesus is what defines us now.
That is why Catholic education is so critical. We need a place where we can proclaim glad tidings, where the good news is preached and cherished. Where everyone who comes can hear this astounding message of liberty and love. Where it does not matter what you have or where you came from you will be valued simply as a child of God. We know your worthy because you are made in the image of God. Where our first priority, indeed our mission before anything else, is to love the child; to love them as Jesus Christ loves them. That is the Spirit that rings through the halls of St. Kateri. Our children are hold as precious as God’s gift and they are told the secrets of divine love in whatever we teach and share. That is the sense you get at Notre Dame Bishop Gibbons where the power of the communal concern and the responsibility to live by the Gospel have created a tremendous force of good in the city. Both places are the Body of Christ alive and thriving.
And that is who we must be as well. Jesus ends his announcement with the promise to “proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” In this, the first year of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish and St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish School, let us, as God’s anointed announce a year of favor to the Lord. Let us become Christ’s Body. Let us come to this table and be transformed into what we eat as receive Christ’s body. Let us be transformed within these walls and then transform our community, nation and world beyond these walls. What will that look like? St. Paul reminds us that, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.”
Then we must begin where Jesus began. We must find those who are suffering and offer them healing. As every part of a body rushes to heal that is wounded we must ensure that all hear the good news, we must be a reason of hope for those who are poor; we must set free those who are held captive and visit our prisoners; we must shed light and overcome the blindness of ignorance. We must be a vanguard of justice for those who are oppressed. We must protect the unborn; we must be the voice of the voiceless; we must be strength for the weak and shelter for the homeless. We must be a beacon of hope that defeats the darkness of oppression.
And when we do all that, this will be a year of favor to the Lord, an acceptable year. For all will know that Jesus is alive; that his word is still spoken and his power still heals. A year of favor at St. Kateri’s means we will be truly the Body of Christ. And we will change the world.