1st Reading Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 • 2nd Reading 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 • Gospel Luke 4:21-30
We are who we are, mainly because of the virtues and values our parents inculcated in us in our growing up years. I remember being told, “Be humble”. “Mai Hao Lian” (Teochew for “Don’t be boastful or proud”).
Naturally, Jesus would have his self-understanding and knowledge shaped and formed by his parents, Mary and Joseph. His vision of life was also guided by his own identity as the Son of God. Jesus practised the virtues of care and compassion for the poor and those despairing in life. This insight can be gleaned from his proclamations in the synagogue as seen in this week’s Gospel.
Jesus starts his public ministry by pronouncing the Good News that he is anointed by the power of the Spirit to bring about the fulfilment of God’s promise. He is telling us that God has not forgotten “the poor, the captives, the blind, the downtrodden” and all his actions are to save these people who have been neglected, ignored and abused, and left in despair. In other words, “God hears the cry of the poor!” .This is the Good News.
We live in a world where often the rich, powerful and influential get away with what they want. They hold in contempt the poor and powerless who often are the women and children in a male dominated society then and even now.
God’s answer to man’s hubris and contempt is to overturn the proud-hearted and powerful by taking the oath of humility and mercy. He lets his work be manifest in the person of Jesus — the Anointed and Beloved on whom his favour rests. Even when he was rejected by them – “This is Joseph’s son surely.” (Lk 4:21). They had taken him for granted and put Jesus into a pigeon hole ... “I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.” (Lk 4:24)
When Jesus read the prophetic words of Isaiah 61, the pharisees and religious leaders in the Synagogue could not accept what he preached and were determined to oppose him.
It is not surprising to find that in the world’s suffering and evil we also face injustice, rejection and even persecution. But we can rejoice and learn from Pope Francis who tells us to practise forgiveness for it is the key to victory over the forces of darkness today. “God forgives sins so that joy, not sadness, can flourish once again in one’s heart.” “How do you conquer evil? By welcoming God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of one’s brothers and sisters.” (Pope Francis, Angelus address, 15th Sept 2019).
Familiarity breeds contempt, but we must not become too familiar with sin and evil, and be nonchalant about it. We are called to conquer sin, especially pride, and walk humbly with our God and with each other.
As we approach the Lunar New Year this coming week, let us resolve to allow the spirit of goodwill in family reunions to strengthen our bonds of gratitude, and love for each other. Perhaps, it is the right time and opportunity to be reconciled with each other and say sorry to someone in the family that you have hurt or have been resentful towards. Let this be a time to tame the ‘tiger’ of ferocity, aggression and unforgiveness. Truly we must allow the spirit of God to heal the wounds of division, jealousy and hate in the family if we are to be at peace and be happy.
On behalf of Frs Greg Tan, SJ, Leslie Bingkasan, SJ, and the parish staff, I wish all our parishioners, families and friends, a Blessed and Happy Lunar New Year!
FR COLIN TAN, SJ