January 8, 2015 - THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME:

1JOHN 4:19-5:4 ; LUKE 4:14-22

THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME. When Jesus quoted these words they had first been spoken some seven hundred years before. They were faithfully preserved and meditated for they implicitly contained an assurance of a presence of the Spirit of God to be realized in some future. When Jesus read them in the synagogue at his home town in Nazareth, he was moved by that same Spirit to add a sentence that announced his public ministry in a manner that stirred his hearers. "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." He made this claim with such convincing confidence that he won the admiration of his entire audience, Luke informs us.

The liturgy's first reading we have just heard stops at this point and faithfully reports the initial response to our Lord's self revelation. Luke continues his Gospel account with a description of further and opposite response to our Lord's bold claim. Their faith in him proved fickle and hey not only rejected his message, but sought to kill him on a subsequent occasion. This opens a later phase of our Lord's life that eventuates in the Paschal mystery. Actually that theme of rejection was early introduced and surely had a profound effect on the climate in which Jesus lived his hidden years. Simeon, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had already predicted that the infant born to Mary would be a sign of contradiction and that Mary would suffer intensely, as if struck to the heart by a sword because of her son's rejection. The passion and death of the Savior cast its somber shadow over the infancy and childhood from earliest times, and remained the background of the lives of the members of the Holy Family.

However, all along the hidden years there was a quiet, steady, and powerful light that shone through the background shadows. The Spirit who had come upon the Virgin mother to render her womb fertile did not leave her to her own resources. On the contrary, as the child born of her grew in age he came increasingly subject to the hidden light of the Divine Spirit dwelling in Him even more fully than in the Virgin Mother. Luke was moved to remark that "Jesus grew in wisdom, age, and grace before God and man." (2:52) Significantly, he added that Mary made it her practice to "keep all these happenings and words in her heart." The Evangelist is so impressed with the action of the Spirit in the life of Jesus that he repeatedly refers to it not only in the early and hidden years but also early in his ministry, as he states in today's Gospel text. In fact, he introduces the central message of today's account in such a way as to suggest that it is under the influence of the Holy Spirit that our Lord declares that he fulfills Isaiah's prophecy in his person and his preaching. For Luke opens this account with the statement that "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit", adding that "He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all." The message he imparted at that Sabbath meeting makes abundantly clear that Isaiah's words find their fulfillment in his person. The passage then is a strong declaration that Jesus' ministry is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It states the matter in resounding language: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor."

This is the teaching that we at this Eucharist today are here to proclaim and celebrate with thanksgiving. For we not only receive the glad tidings of his words that promise eternal life, we are also given the sacrament in which the Son of God not only appears among us but gives his very self to us who welcome him with loving faith.

As we commemorate these two Fathers of the Church in this Eucharist today, we are given the example of great gifts so fully dedicated to the service of the Church.  May their intercession obtain for us the grace of courageous fidelity to the Catholic faith that Jesus who renews his sacrifice here today? unites us with his Father in the Holy Spirit.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger