The other morning I was standing in the kitchen listening to the headlines on the early morning news. In a matter of just a few minutes, I was informed of two assaults, a police officer wounded in a random shooting, a fatal hit-and-run accident, and arson in an apartment building. This was followed by a snippet from a political debate that had devolved into some pretty serious name-calling.
All of this before my first cup of coffee!
I began to realize just how numb I am to all these reports. I have developed a Teflon shield that makes all this chatter slide right off. I pour my coffee and go on with my day. Seldom do I even reflect that all this bad news concerns real people.
Sometimes I feel that we are awash in an ocean of negativity with no land in sight. People define themselves by what they are against—and everybody is against something. Even the
sanest of political voices carry undertones of opposition with little or no hope of compromise.
In much of human commerce, bombast replaces debate and demonization stands in for dialog. Perhaps most serious of all—talking completely overshadows listening.
I get the impression that people really don’t cherish diversity and that freedom of speech ought not be granted to folks who are going to say things we don’t like.
On the heels of this reflection, I thumbed ahead in my copy of Living with Christ to review the Gospel for this coming Sunday.
There is Jesus sitting in his hometown synagogue. He is handed the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, and he stands up to read. What were the expectations of the congregation? Would Jesus condemn Samaritans? Would he lash out against the crush of Roman occupation? Would he insist on a rigid purity of doctrine and practice?
In what has long been one of my very favorite Gospel moments, Jesus sets out the terms of his ministry in a most unexpected fashion. He reads:
“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.”
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus defined himself by the kind of kingdom he came to establish. In an important examination of conscience, we might well take a good look at how we define ourselves and thereby discover how we can share his mission and how we can be “glad tidings.”