Isaiah 61:1-2 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly….”
Do you have a Facebook account or other social media? Did you ever friend a family member or acquaintance whom you might not have known well, but felt obligated to include them in your circle of social media? Did they have a different fundamental belief in some area than you and played their God card only for you to be outraged at the error of their beliefs? Did it get ugly with name calling, blocking, and other outrageousness? Yeah, I dealt with this last week-end. Sadly, Indiana has recently passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I wish the people of Indiana had listened to Pope Francis when he stated, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” — Interview aboard the Papal Plane after World Youth Day in Brazil. Discrimination is wrong and not of God, simply put. I cannot wrap my head around interpreting this bill any other way. Trust me, I have heard it all from devout Christians in my social media circle as well as those in my immediate family who felt the need to defend this act on my Facebook wall. I fear that until the Supreme Court takes an interest and rules on whether sexual orientation is a civil right, we will continue to struggle with this new discrimination based on the right of the individual to refuse to service another based on their own religious interpretation. It is saddening.
Which brings me to our Bible passage which is being pondered by Catholics around our world this Holy Monday, as we continue to prepare our hearts for the most important of all holidays in our faith, Easter. Originally, Isaiah, one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, shared these verses as he proclaimed what God had anointed him as a prophet with a job to do. Jesus in Nazareth cited Isaiah 61:1-2 when he stood before His people and after reading the verses, He announced “Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18). Naturally, that did not go over very well with those who had come to the service as they were expecting a Messiah that would come in glory and strength, not a local carpenter who came from an unwed mother. I am sure that news like that tended to stay around for awhile, small town mentality and all. (How dare that Jesus think he is the Messiah. I heard that Mary and Joseph weren’t married when he was begot. No way is he even capable of the job we need done in a Messiah. Yada, yada.)They did not realize that in the most humblest of circumstances the greatest of God’s purposes are accomplished for His glory. Thus His Son, the Messiah, was indeed begot by a young, unwed virgin and born in the lowliest of circumstances to the poorest of poor among the people.
So Jesus announces and confirms His mission statement in Nazareth, repeating the words of Isaiah that He has come and with the Spirit of the Lord’s anointing He has been sent to cheer, heal, proclaim, release and announce. If this is His mission, we as His believers, must find this to be our mission as well. We are sent to do all these things as we are now His hands, His feet, His heart here on Earth.
So I ask, how is it that we are to cheer the lowly? Who are the lowly? The poor in spirit? Do I trust Him enough to let go of whatever my agenda is to be anointed by Him to perform this cheering which He has called me to? I am reminded of Mother Theresa of Calcutta stating “God did not put me down here to be successful. He put me down here to be faithful.” So it is with each of us. We must walk in faith and give up our successes and agendas and perceptions on who is deserving of our respect and we must serve others. Even if this means in Indiana looking past whatever behavior you do not respect, and simply loving and serving the person in front of you, regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, etc.
How do we serve the lowly, whether in actuality or perceived lowliness? St Therese of Lisieux, a Catholic saint who lived in the mid 1800’s, is known for her Little Ways. She taught through example that the way for each of us who wants to serve God, need look no further than littleness, simplicity and love. It is not necessary that we all perform great sacrifices or mighty works to accomplish bringing good tidings to the lowly. If we live our life doing for others in love and obedience to His calling, we are showing love in the “Little Ways.” Matthew 18:3 tells us that Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” We must become child-like in our love, devotion, and care of our fellow man. We must eat with the sinners and prostitutes and tax collectors and homosexuals, without hesitation. Daily we must attend to them in the little things. For it is in the little, day to day interactions that we show God’s great love for His glory to our brothers and sisters. Those whom the world has time and time again tried to infer that they are less than. The friends of Jesus. As He did even though it led to His Walk of Sorrow on Good Friday. For that we give Him our thanks, our love, our life. Because had He refused to serve those whom He felt were lower than He, none of us would ever have risen with Him on Easter morning, anointed and forgiven and much loved by a Father who had spent an eternity to love us.