“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.” – Lk. 4:18-19

Through the Advent and Christmas season readings, I've been reflecting a lot on all the ways that Jesus is not a replacement of the old covenant but the ultimate fulfillment of it. I'd always heard those words but rarely took the time to really appreciate what it meant.

I've noticed myself hoping for many of the same things that those listeners in the synagogue did back then as they waited for a messiah to free them from Rome. Maybe I wanted freedom from debt, freedom from the control of an unjust law or employer, or freedom from the ever-increasing pains and frailties of the human body. What I'm starting to realize this year is how hollow being rescued from those would be if I was still holding myself in the captivity of sin, oppressing my own soul through constant self-criticism and feelings of worthlessness, and the poverty of social isolation.

Staying in that captivity is very human; there is something comforting about captivity. If I am worthless, then I don't need to try to change the world. If I don't cultivate friendships, I don't need to worry about letting somebody down. One price of freedom is the possibility of failing. Now God has sent his Son with wonderful news for us; our failures have been forgiven. Jesus has called all those who have failed, have sinned, are broken and weary to a mission mightier than any noble or king has ever undertaken. He has called us to proclaim his good news to the poor, the oppressed, the sick and downtrodden. Through Him we can not only offer them our tireless efforts to free them from their oppression but God's forgiveness so that they can fully accept that freedom and become part of God's kingdom on earth.

In what ways am I holding myself in captivity, and how is that holding me back from God's call?
Are there any ways I am contributing to the physical or emotional oppression of others?
Do I hear God calling me to proclaim the good news through word or action?

Marc Lehman