January 23, 2022


(Reflection for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, January 23, 2022) Luke 4: 14-21

By: The Rev. Victoria S. Esguerra
Retired Priest, Diocese of Greater Manila Area



The books of Nehemiah and Ezra were originally only one.  The historical accounts of Israeli period 538 to 430 B.C. were recorded here – the lists of names of returnees from the Babylonian exile, the formation of the Jewish community, and the rebuilding of the walls of the Jerusalem Temple.  Nehemiah, a man of prayer, was the appointed governor; and Ezra was the priest, scribe, and Levite.  In this biblical text, Ezra summoned the people to obey the law.  He prayed, blessed the Lord, and the people answered, “Amen, amen.”  The people wept when they heard the law; but Ezra told them not to grieve for “the joy of the Lord is their strength.


This is a prayer of exultation to God by the psalmist David – exalting Him for the heavens and the natural creation of His hands; precepts, commandments, and ordinances for the welfare of His people; and expectation of great reward by being freed from transgressions.  Here, also, is a brief prayer usually uttered before the preacher’s homily: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” 


Paul wrote to inform the Corinthians of the many members constituting the church and baptized by the Holy Spirit – Jews, Greeks, slaves, free – all made to drink of one Spirit.  All parts of the body were important – those which seemed weaker were indispensable; and those seemingly less honorable or disrespectful should be treated with respect and honor.  He advised that there should be no dissension and everyone must care for one another.  According to him, God appointed different roles for the members:  apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, speakers in tongues, interpreters of tongues – to each according to the need of the church. 


After Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River and 40 days in the wilderness where He was tempted by the Devil, He returned to Galilee to begin His ministry at the synagogue in Nazareth.  On the Sabbath day, He stood to pray and to read from the Scrolls, from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 58:6: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of the sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”  To the people in the synagogue expecting an interpretation from Him of the Scriptural passage just read, they received a one-sentence reply from Jesus: “Today the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Those who heard Him were amazed and questioned His authority.  But Jesus wanted to announce to them that the Spirit was the one who “anointed” Him (“Messiah”) to go on His ministry of proclamation, healing, and relief of the poor and suffering.  His mission proclamation was in agreement with God’s overall plan.

Jesus’ proclamation of the Good News during His time still has relevance in today’s life.  This is applicable in contemporary scenario, as the “poverty-stricken” and “down-trodden” are still in our social midst.  The POOR – whether economically or spiritually – are those who suffer hardships due to various reasons:  self-inflicted due to ignorance, illiteracy, and wrong-decisions; lack of voice (voiceless) in a strong power-filled society; and victimized externally by oppressive regimes or abusive political-social structures.  In this time of the covid pandemic, they literally suffer from poor nutrition and bad health, and from lack of employment and sufficient resources to survive in their daily struggles.  In addition, those without a strong faith, the spiritually poor easily succumb resorting to illegal and immoral activities as preys by unscrupulous people.

The CAPTIVES, likewise, are the prisoners caught in a web of personal vulnerabilities, environmental/ familial poverty, and corrupt political systems alien to their religious-cultural upbringing (e.g., the victimized indigenous peoples); or red-tagged for their personal or religious and social advocacies; or victims of environmental degradations or natural calamities and disasters entirely not of their own doing.  

The BLIND are those who are physically (with damaged eyes) or spiritually blind (could see physically but opted to have closed/myopic vision to the TRUTH – religious or social or political), or are victims of social media misinformation or disinformation, and/or mummed on the injustices around them including the proliferation of lies and willing “gullibles” of the general “band-wagon” or “trolls” propaganda campaigns eliciting electoral votes. As a consequence, they are also helpless in society due to others’ maltreatment or their own self-inflicted haplessness due to plain naivete or ignorance.

Finally, the OPPRESSED are those who are victimized from all fronts of discrimination, cruelty, tyranny, injustice, abuse, brutality, persecution (all forms), etc., as they have been deprived of their liberty or lost their freedom (free will) to defend themselves due to poverty, blindness/disabilities, lack of education, and/or other captive situations. These were/are the people for whom Jesus was sent to redeem; aside from their lost souls.  


Likewise, the above-mentioned are the same people still entrusted to the Church today or for the care of the holy alliance of Christians.  This was the challenge to the chosen people of God (Israel) during the Lord’s time, and remains to be the challenge for both the Christians and Gentiles today in our own time. As St. Paul reminds the Church as being equipped with all kinds of talents in its membership to take up the mission of Christ, shall we be willing to undertake this challenge during this most opportune time, or stay oblivious (and BLIND) to their plight?  Or must we wait for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus for its own fulfillment, despite God’s manifestation of His light to us today?  By then it might be TOO LATE! (When He comes as the  SUPREME JUDGE!)



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