“Freed from…”: A Homily by Deacon Jim Hyatt

So, we humans we love change right? We never resist change and we happily abandon our old ways without a fight, right? Wrong Deacon Jim. If you are anything like me, change can be hard sometimes, especially when we need to change a little bit of who we are or what we cling to. God knows that, and in our readings today we hear about his call to us for spiritual change.

In the first reading, we have Ezra the priest preaching to the returned exiles about the forgotten laws of Moses. They have been away for generations and they need to re-learn the laws now that they are back in Jerusalem. It says that Ezra preached to them from “daybreak till midday” and that they were weeping. Now I am not sure if they were weeping because they realized just how far from God they had strayed or was it because Ezra had a six-hour homily! But the returned exiles knew they had to change, to have a conversion of heart.

And in the Gospel, we see Jesus coming back to his hometown and going to the Synagogue to read from the scrolls and to preach. After he read the passage from Isaiah, he calls the people to change their view of who he is from the carpenter’s son to the Son of God. And in that short passage he read, he asks them and asks us to change, to change how we do things, how we react to things, and how and when we turn to him in times of stress, hurt or anxiety.

Jesus Christ did in fact come to heal, to give sight to the blind, to free the oppressed and to give glad tidings to the poor as we heard. But is Jesus talking only about physical blindness, being physically captive, or being financially poor? Or is he also talking about something deeper that is his calling to us to change? Let’s take a careful look at this passage.

In the passage that Jesus read in the synagogue, Isaiah writes that the Spirit of the Lord is upon the Messiah and he has been anointed to, “bring glad tidings to the poor.” While Jesus certainly ministered to the financially poor, he also ministers to the spiritually poor, those who may not have a shepherd to guide them, those who have strayed from the path and fallen away from God. He calls us back to him.

Next it states that the Messiah will also bring, “liberty to the captives.” Is that just to the physically captive or those who are spiritually captive meaning those held captive by sin, jealousy, envy, hate or hurt? That sounds like us sometimes. We get fixated on something of this world and don’t let go. He is asking us to change, to turn to him to break away from what holds us captive.

Isaiah also says the Messiah brings, “recovery of sight to the blind.” Again, not just to the physically blind, but to those who are spiritually blind – blind to sin’s impact on us and our society, blind to a way out of our troubles, blocked from seeing what God can do to our “blindness”.

I think right here in this reading, we are invited to be healed, we are invited to be spiritually freed from captivity, to receive glad tidings, to receive sight to see light and not darkness. This Gospel message is not just directed at the people way “out there” or back in time, I think it is for us in our hearts. The conversion of self he offers is about us spiritually. All of our challenges, all of our hurt, all of our sin, all of our loneliness has a repository, a place to go, a person to give it all to: Jesus Christ. When we embrace that change, that surrender really, we enter into a deeper relationship with him. This ongoing conversion though takes work. It is not one and done because we do tend to slip back. But he is our journey partner, when we slip and fall, he picks us up, says, “That’s OK”, and together we can move forward. 

In the final line from Isaiah that Jesus reads says he, “proclaims a year acceptable to the Lord.” He is talking about heaven, our reward. When we let him cure our blindness, when we let him free us from our captivity to sin, jealousy and envy he will “proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” And when that happens, we will see him face to face, and we will be with him for eternity. I like the sound of that. How about you?

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