Do you believe that the Gospel is simply historical or that you can experience its power in your life today?
Let’s take this Sunday’s Gospel for example. Jesus is in the synagogue and he reads from the prophet Isaiah: “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 Jesus says to his hearers, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The “today” that Jesus speaks to the people of his time is also our own “today.” As the Letter to the Hebrews teaches, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (13:8). The Gospel is not simply about what Jesus did in the past; it’s about what he’s doing now. We believe that every time the Gospel is proclaimed, Christ’s saving activity is made present among us. This is why it’s so important not only to listen to the Gospel proclaimed at Mass, but also to meditate upon the Gospel regularly. We encounter Christ in the Gospel. Just as Jesus said to his hearers, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” so is the message of the Gospel fulfilled in our hearing whenever we listen to it with reverence and respond to it in faith.
For example, Jesus says that he has been sent to proclaim liberty to the captives. How many of us are captive to certain sinful habits that we can’t seem to break or negative emotions that we can’t let go of? These sins and emotions have a hold on us and at times control us. Jesus says to us, “Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, Jesus came not only to bring liberty to the captives of his time but he wants to bring us freedom today.
Jesus said that he was sent to bring recovery of sight to the blind. How many of us are blind to God’s presence in our midst or to the needs of the poor? Jesus wants us to recover our spiritual sight “today.”
The words and actions of Jesus have as much to do with us as they did to the people of his time. Jesus desires that the Gospel be fulfilled in our hearing and that each one of us experience his saving power “today.”
St. Luke tells us that “the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.” In order for the Gospel to be fulfilled in our lives we too must look intently at Jesus. We must gaze at him in our prayer and let his loving gaze penetrate our souls.
Father Michael Najim is Spiritual Director of Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Providence, as well as Catholic Chaplain at LaSalle Academy, Providence.