Encountering God’s Word

In January, when we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we always see a clip of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Each time I see that clip, I am moved and challenged by what he said. The power of his words comes from the integrity of what he said, how he lived, and what he called us to. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a model for us of a response by word and deed to the challenge Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel.

Jesus proclaims a reading from the prophet Isaiah to the people in the Nazareth synagogue. The hearers must have heard, for after Jesus’ proclamation, they looked intently at him. What were they expecting? An explanation of what they heard? Yes,  but Jesus moves them beyond the mere words to an encounter of him as the Word of God made flesh.  The people of Nazareth, heard God’s word and encountered God’s word in the very person of Jesus.

In Jesus, the Word is action fulfilled, for in him God’s plan of love is enfleshed in his care and compassion for the poor, the captives, the blind, the oppressed – anyone who came to him.

Now we – our own lives- announce the meaning of the word proclaimed and enfleshed. The poor we encounter today include not only those who lack material necessities but also those without inner satisfaction. The imprisoned are not only those in cells but also those imprisoned by their fears. The blind are not only those who cannot physically see but are those who fail to see their human dignity.

Like Jesus, we are sent to bring glad tidings to all we encounter, not simply by uttering words but by actions that change the world around us.