The third Sunday of the year takes place within the context of our annual week of prayer for Christian Unity.
In today’s gospel Jesus takes up the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and reads “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me. He has sent me to bring Good News to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, to the blind new sight.” He rolls up the scroll and says: This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.
It is particularly sad that in the history of the Christian people this Good News has often been turned into something bad – and has been used as a means for causing division, resentment and suspicion, and as an excuse for prejudice, cruelty, exclusion and violence. The things that have been done in the name of religion, in the name of the person who said “Love your neighbour as yourself.” We can look in horror at the past or at the present in situations where there is great division and suffering and wonder how it could ever happen. But we also need to be honest with ourselves – are there no strangers, no enemies, no divisions, no people or groups we exclude in our own lives.
Those words of Jesus apply equally to each one of us “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me; he has sent me to bring Good News…”
Our mission as Christians, all of us, is very simple – to continue the work of Christ. Those words of Jesus apply equally to each one of us “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me; he has sent me to bring Good News…” That may sound daunting, just as Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour as yourself” can often sound like a tall order. How can we do it, where do we start?
You might be interested to know that there were earlier versions which are good starting points– “do no harm to others” “do not do unto others what you would not want done unto you.”
For myself I add another one – respect, trying to respect every person I meet. So often we can dismiss those who are different, who don’t appeal to us, who have different beliefs, different personalities, or belong to different age groups. We can write people off, put them down, exclude them, speak ill of them because we don’t like the way they talk or walk or dress or approach life, or because they threaten us, because they’re different or seem weak.
To try to respect every person we meet. If we could do that, if we could treat each person with respect we might find Christian unity wasn’t such a problem and that we aren’t so far off our mission of proclaiming good news to the poor, freedom to captives and new sight to the blind.