|Eyes fixed on Jesus|
Two weeks ago on the First Sunday of Epiphany: The Baptism of the Lord, after Jesus is baptized, God's voice declares "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased." God's full attention was fixed on his Son. And, by extension, when we are baptized God's full attention is given to us. God says "You are my beloved daughter, you are my beloved son." This is different than when we were growing up and our parents told us: You better be good, God is watching you and will punish you if you do something bad. Of course this was backed up every year at Christmas time with Santa Claus: He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.
The truth is: If we've been bad Santa gives us a lump of coal, but God gives us his forgiveness and steadfast love. Realizing God's mercy, we really try to please God and pass this same mercy on to others. Imagine a community of people who live in mercy with one another at all times and you have what St. Paul calls the Body of Christ.
But I want to get back to the idea that God lovingly watches us, because in the Gospel today after Jesus gives his first major speech in his hometown synagogue of Nazareth, he sits down and it says: All eyes were fixed on him. Jesus. He had just left behind the temptations in the desert and started his ministry and here was another temptation: All eyes were fixed on him. Right then and there he could have changed course. He could have bathed in the adoration of the people forever: All spoke well of him. But he didn't crave their approval, but his Father's.
And what was the program of his Father that he was sent to implement? When he was asked to read that day in the synagogue he could have rolled the scroll (they were reading from Isaiah at that time, just like we read various books at certain times today, open to what ever part he chose. This was like the President giving an Inaugural Address. Jesus chose to quote from Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
The Father is the "he" in the passage. This is the program he sent Jesus, and, by extension, the program for all those baptized in the name of God:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
If you've ever thought: Preachers just pick and choose what they want to preach on, whatever suits them, and sometimes I don't like what they're emphasizing! Well, that's exactly what Jesus did! What Jesus read was what he believed the Father wanted him to do. This passage contained in a nut-shell his whole program: not just the saving of souls, or getting to heaven, but a real world changing movement that would change people's lives in the here and now.
What is really interesting is that Jesus leaves out from this passage that was known very well to all the people in the synagogue that day and important phrase:
¨A day of vengeance of our God.¨
Isaiah prophesied a Day of Vengeance and Jesus chooses to leave it out! It was right there in front of him. Those paying attention who knew the passage would note the ommision. But he had to. Jesus knew there is no vengeance or getting even or pay-back in God's program of love and acceptance of every human being. Isaiah, and most other people, would naturally think when the poor and oppressed get on top, they're going to sock-it to those who exploited and abused them. But Jesus knew that retribution wasn't part of the deal. In fact, vengeance, or however you want to call or rationalize it, mocks God's intent for relations between those God created and put on this earth.
If God is the Father of all, then we all are brothers and sisters- no exceptions.
So far, so good. Everybody liked the hometown boy made good. He's one of us! But their approval didn't last very long, maybe an hour or two. When they realized that others, even their enemies, could also be objects of God's love and favor, they balked. They tried to run Jesus out of town. More on this next week!
So the Good News is: If we're looking for people's approving eyes to be fixed on us, don't count on it lasting for very long. Instead, let's keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Jesus, and Jesus alone, will see us through.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE