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(Homily notes for St. Luke’s Day, Year A, 2011 by Rev. John Gishler)
This brief announcement by Jesus is both a declaration of who He is and a statement of His mission. It is one of the most dramatic moments in the Bible. As followers of Jesus we need to keep focussed on this mission of proclaiming good news to the poor. Many people and churches have become side-tracked and settled into a more comfortable mission of keeping the physical church going. The good news that Jesus proclaimed challenged religious and political authority and led to constant and violent opposition. It transformed lives. In our time many people are fearful, confused prisoners to false religious ideas. Many are spiritually, emotionally and physically blind and in need of healing. Many are not even aware of the possibility of spiritual oppression. Our mission is to proclaim the year of God’s blessing, to challenge people to go from error into truth, sin into righteousness and out of death into life.
1. How do we proclaim freedom for prisoners?
We live in a time when many people, including many people who think they are Christians, are prisoners to addictions, fears, confusion and false religious beliefs. In the time of Jesus the Jews had become prisoners to “the Law”. We still have religious fundamentalists who build narrow religious prisons and try to put people in them. In response many people have rejected the historic Christian faith and put themselves in spiritual prisons we could cultural Christianity, confusion, secular humanism or even paganism.. Welcome to post-Christendom with its simplistic new age platitudes about love and inclusiveness. This is not the good news. This is the anti-good news that has seduced and imprisoned our culture. It was hard for the followers of Jesus to pry people away from their comfortable pagan and Hebrew beliefs and customs. Each of us has a story of struggle related to how we were freed from our prison of fear, ignorance, confusion and religious error. It often involves reading the Bible, having a mentor, personal healing experience, Alpha Course or Cursillo. This is the story we are to proclaim however, wherever and to whoever will listen. Jesus and the Holy Spirit will help us free prisoners one at a time – if we ask.
2. How do we help the blind recover sight?
The healing miracles of Jesus and the Resurrection are the hardest bar for many people to jump over in coming to serious faith. We have all been educated in a science-based culture that tends to reject the miraculous. Academic Biblical Criticism since the ‘Age of Reason’ has established beyond doubt that there are errors in the Bible – repeated text, text that has been copied, text out of the original order and simple numerical errors in reporting war casualties. But does this really mean we can dismiss the spiritual worldview of Jesus as ‘pagan superstition? “So how do you know the truth?” my neighbour asked a few weeks ago. It comes down to personal experience. I did not really believe in healing and exorcisms until I experienced healing and experienced an exorcism. What I learned is that our words have power. The Holy Spirit gives us words of healing that we speak to people – and they are healed, just like it says in the Bible. We are to proclaim healing – but only when instructed, guided and led by the Holy Spirit .
3. How do we set the oppressed free?
We are to personally intervene and do whatever we can to free people who are physically, emotionally and politically oppressed – because they are our neighbour and God’s children. But Jesus was also talking about something much deeper. Jesus was talking about the invisible spiritual oppression that is often behind and driving visible oppression. Jesus is taking us to a deeper place where we are even less comfortable. Craig Hill of Family Foundations International has defined the worldview of Jesus - and our current situation with words chosen to shock us out of our complacency: "We are all ‘wounded people living in a pagan culture on a demon infested planet’ This is the worldview of Jesus that many people now dismiss as pagan superstition. We mock this on Halloween. We need to take it seriously and try to understand it. My experience in the healing ministry has taught me that demons and spirits may not be everywhere - but they are real. When people rebel against God and sin they separate themselves from being under God’s protection. The Holy Spirit warns them and may even leave. It is like opening a doorway into that person’s soul for an evil spirit or demon – and a particular form of oppression or addiction. The Good News is that qualified and anointed prayer ministry can lead a person through repentance and healing to freedom from spiritual oppression and addictions.
We are to proclaim the time of God’s blessing
We are surrounded by wounded, fearful, confused and oppressed people. It is the mission of every serious Christian to proclaim the Good News: