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Third Sunday,Lent,C.Jan.21,01.Lk.13:1-9

3rd Sunday,C,Jan.21,2001

Concluding the Jubilee year and offering a new sense of hope in the new Millenium, the Holy Father closed the bronze door of St.Peter’s Basilica, on Jan.6 . He addressed the congregation with the following words: “ While today we close the Holy Door, a symbol of Christ, the heart of Jesus remains more open than ever.” The Holy father added further: “ We need to set out anew from Christ, with the zeal of Pentecost, with renewed enthusiasm, to set out from Him above all in a daily commitment to holiness.” The ceremonies of the Jubilee Year are thus over, but the work of the Jubilee now begins—begins in our hearts, in our families, in our neighborhoods and workplaces, the work of forgiveness, remission of debts, and compassion to the poor and the weak.

These are exciting times—we are witnessing the unfolding of a new millenium, the beginning of a New Year, the installation of a new Archbishop, and the inauguration of a new President. Words like a new era, a fresh start, a new administration etc are in the air now.

Thousands of years ago, there was this same yearning for a new beginning, for a fresh start, for a new relationship. To the people thirsting for such a new life after their return from the exile (583 B.C.) in Babylon, Ezra, the priest presented that new way by asking them to conform to the Law of God. Standing on a platform before the water Gate, Ezra read the law from daybreak until midday and people burst into tears. They cried in repentance as well as in joy: repentance because they could not live up to the demands of the Law while they were living in exile; joy, because God, still cared for them and offered them a new chance.

Out-shadowing all these fresh starts and beginnings, Our Lord faced the congregation of his own home town, centuries later and announced the beginning of a new era by appropriating to himself the words of the Prophet Isaiah about the Messiah. He announced to all of them that the words of the Prophet Isaiah concerning the Messiah were fulfilled in him and that He is the Savior, the Anointed of the Lord.

What type of new beginning has Jesus envisaged? Is it in any way similar to the new beginnings and fresh starts we have in mind? Do our economic theories, political philosophies and social theories match the principles laid out by Jesus? What should be our attitudes and perceptions in the light of these words of Jesus?

The people of Jesus’ time could not tolerate those ideas and they wanted to throw him out of their town. How can a carpenter’s on become a prophet all of a sudden? That is what perplexed them.

What does Jesus tell them? He tells them that his mission is to bring glad tidings to the poor. Jesus would later amplify the meaning of this when he says that the Blessed are the poor in spirit : the reign of God is theirs. Blessed are the sorrowing: they shall be consoled.

We are so much caught up in the glitter of wealth, pomp and glory that we never realize what it means to be impoverished, to have no shelter, and to be hungry. We don’t associate with people who are ill-dressed and we don’t receive them as our guests and we don’t feel happy when they join our company. We have such romantic notions of the poor that we see them as existing in far –off lands and not in our midst. We hold such contempt for poverty and we see the poor as the wretched of the earth, the misfit who misused the opportunities of life. But that is not the way Jesus sees. He says I have come to bring to joy their hearts, to make them feel happy and to wipe away the tears of misery from their lives. Where are we, the ardent followers of Christ, the regular participants in the life, the body and blood of Jesus? What have we done for the poor? How many times our hearts , thoughts and hands have been raised to defend the concerns of the poor?

Jesus says again that he has come to proclaim liberty to captives. Who are the captives? They are the captives of sin, of prejudice, of social ostracism. They are the people shunned by the society because of their way of life, because of their sickness, because of their inability to overcome the power of sin in their lives. They are in the prison of their mental darkness, of moral failures, of despair, of the lack of love experienced in their lives. We want them to wear the scarlet letter on their front and to be out of our sights. No Jesus says, I have come to offer them freedom, to offer them peace, to recover them from their mental agony and subjection to evil. What are our attitudes to people who have fallen into such situations? Do we have compassion for them, do we have the willingness to help them?

We are the anointed of Jesus and our task is to proclaim and live by this inaugural message of Jesus, and not the theories of political scientists or economists who have not heart for the poor and the weak. We shall ask the Lord to give us the grace to proclaim through our lives, His message: to offer glad tidings to the poor, to offer freedom to the captives and to offer sight to the blind.


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