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Liberty to Captives

3rd Sunday OT – Cycle C

Today we hear Christ read from a passage in Isaiah. This is an important passage that speaks to Christ’s mission here on earth because this is where the Prophet Isaiah announces the coming of the Messiah who will free his people of their afflictions. And this is who Christ identifies himself as in the last verse of today’s Gospel when he says that, “this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” It is Christ who is the anointed one, the Messiah whom God has sent to his people in their time of trial.

Now, perhaps you noticed the promises Christ made by associating himself with these verses from Isaiah, he’s promised to bring glad tidings to the poor; proclaim liberty to captives; recover sight to the blind; let the oppressed go free; and proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. And Christ has kept these promises, but how are we to understand them?

Well, glad tidings to the poor, at first glance, might seem to mean strictly that he’s come to bring happiness to people in poverty, but that’s not exactly accurate. Rather, the poor that Christ is talking about, refers not just to social conditions, but to a very religious attitude of poverty of spirit and humility towards God; which is to be found in those who rely not on their possession and merits, but trust in God’s goodness and mercy.

And the liberty that Christ speaks of here is not so much physical as it is spiritual. Christ has come to free us from the blindness and oppression of sin, which is slavery imposed on us by the devil.

In fact, St. John Chrysostom, whose feast day is today, tells us that, “Captivity can be felt when it proceeds from physical enemies, but the spiritual captivity referred to here is worse; sin exerts a more severe tyranny, evil takes control and blinds those who lend it obedience; from this spiritual prison Jesus Christ rescued us.”

The words of Isaiah which Christ read out on this occasion describe very graphically the reason why God has sent his Son into the world—to redeem men from sin, to liberate them from slavery to the devil and even from eternal death. While it is true that Christ, during his public ministry, worked many cures, he did not cure all the sick people in the world, nor did he eliminate all forms of distress in this life, because pain, which entered the world through sin, has a permanent redemptive value when associated with the sufferings of Christ. What this means, is that Christ worked these miracles, not so much to release people from physical suffering, as to demonstrate that he had a God-given mission to bring everyone eternal redemption.

My brothers and sisters, this is why Christ has come. It wasn’t to make our lives easier, it wasn’t to make us physically healthy, nor even to make us feel good; though he has done these things for many people. Rather, he came to free us from sin, which he does today through his Church in the sacrament of confession; he does this specifically so that he might bring us to eternal life with Our Father in Heaven.

With this in mind, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you of our confession times: Here at the parish, we have confession every Friday at 5pm, and every Saturday at 3:30 and 7:30pm.

My brother and sisters, if heaven is our goal, we must take advantage of the tools God has given us for this purpose, and those tools, quite simply, are the sacraments; let’s use ‘em.

Published inScriptural Reflections