Prayers today: Sing a new son to the Lord! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Truth and beauty surround him, he lives in holiness and glory.
All powerful and ever-living God, direct your love that is within us, that our efforts in the name of your Son may bring mankind to unity and peace.
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
Francis was destined by his father to be a lawyer so that the young man could eventually take his elder’s place as a senator from the province of Savoy in France. For this reason Francis was sent to Padua to study law. After receiving his doctorate, he returned home and, in due time, told his parents he wished to enter the priesthood. His father strongly opposed Francis in this, and only after much patient persuasiveness on the part of the gentle Francis did his father finally consent. Francis was ordained and elected provost of the Diocese of Geneva, then a center for the Calvinists. Francis set out to convert them, especially in the district of Chablais. By preaching and distributing the little pamphlets he wrote to explain true Catholic doctrine, he had remarkable success. At 35 he became bishop of Geneva. While administering his diocese he continued to preach, hear confessions and catechize the children. His gentle character was a great asset in winning souls. He practised his own axiom, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.” Besides his two well-known books, the Introduction to the Devout Life and A Treatise on the Love of God, he wrote many pamphlets and carried on a vast correspondence. For his writings, he has been named patron of the Catholic Press. His writings, filled with his characteristic gentle spirit, are addressed to lay people. He wants to make them understand that they too are called to be saints. As he wrote in The Introduction to the Devout Life: “It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesman, a prince, or a married woman.... It has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who had preserved it in the world.” In spite of his busy and comparatively short life, he had time to collaborate with another saint, Jane Frances de Chantal (August 12), in the work of establishing the Sisters of the Visitation. These women were to practice the virtues exemplified in Mary’s visit to Elizabeth: humility, piety and mutual charity. They at first engaged to a limited degree in works of mercy for the poor and the sick. Today, while some communities conduct schools, others live a strictly contemplative life.
Francis de Sales tells us: “The person who possesses Christian meekness is affectionate and tender towards everyone: he is disposed to forgive and excuse the frailties of others; the goodness of his heart appears in a sweet affability that influences his words and actions, presents every object to his view in the most charitable and pleasing light.”
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (1:1-4; 4:14-21)
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eye-witnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)
There are certain features of the religion of Judaeo-Christian revelation which are common to many other religions. One basic common element is, of course, belief in an unseen world which profoundly affects the visible world. In his religion, man attempts to be involved with the supernatural world and its higher powers so as to obtain aid in dealing with his various needs. The classic secular man denies that there is this supernatural. And there are many other things common to most religions. On the other hand, there are features of Judaeo-Christian religion which are especially notable, and perhaps unique to it. One is the expectation of God’s coming and its fulfilment. Expectancy pervaded the religion of Abraham, Moses and the prophets prior to Jesus Christ — and it passed over, in a new sense, into the Christian religion. It is a religion which expects that God will come and do things for man. He will save him from his difficulties. In the biblical account of the beginnings, God promises that there will be one who will crush the Serpent’s head and thus undo his bad work. God promises that through Abraham all the nations will be blessed. He promises to David that his kingdom will never end. The promises continue and they increase with the prophets, and this glorious future which God continued to guarantee was focussed in an individual anointed by God. Snapshots of him in the prophecies from one angle and then another flashed before the chosen people, but it was very difficult to achieve a united and common understanding. So, on the one hand there was the firm expectation that God would come to help and to save — and an iconic type of this was his saving of his people from their slavery in Egypt. A Messiah was coming — perhaps a new Moses, or a new Prophet, a new David. But his nature, his person, and his saving mission were contested. Very many thought he would save his people from political oppression. One could even describe Jesus Christ as being the definitive resolution of this confusion of interpretation. He came revealing himself as the divine fulfilment of all the longings and all the predictions.
In our Gospel today (Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21), our Lord has returned from his initial sojourn in Judea, during which he was baptized by John in the Jordan river, anointed by the Holy Spirit and launched on his messianic mission, and made contact with is first Apostles. He was now back in Galilee in the power of the Spirit. We read that “news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” A new and great prophet had arisen, and John had pointed to him as the one to whom all should listen. And so he returned to the scene of his childhood, youth and manhood. All his human roots, the ties of human affections and his memories, were here. We read that in the synagogue “he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.” All of this, he then said, is being fulfilled here and now in my very person. I am the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah. Our Lord would go on in his ministry to show that all the prophecies had their fulfilment in him, but in a sense that too few had expected. He had come to save his people from their sins and to give to them a share in his own divine life. He was the God-given Saviour of the world in a sense far greater than they had divined. Peter would proclaim before the Sanhedrin that “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we can be saved” than that of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the Messiah awaited by Israel, sent into the world by the Father. He is crucified and risen, the Suffering Servant “who gives his life as a ransom for the many” (Matthew 20:28). It was a triumph and a fulfilment which few expected, but which in the event was shown to be the true meaning of the prophecies.
Jesus means God is saving. Christ means, the anointed one. Jesus Christ is the one God anointed to save mankind from its worst and basic affliction, sin. This kind of salvation has little interest for many, and there were great numbers in our Lord’s time who had little interest in it too. They wanted salvation from sickness, hunger, political oppression — which were true and great evils, but they all stemmed from the basic evil which is sin. Sin entered the world through one man, and with sin came death. Christ is the Saviour of the world in that he took away the world’s sin — but this blessing has to be brought to every person. It is in friendship with Jesus Christ that this salvation comes to us. Let us, then, be his true friend!