A few days ago I had a dream about ISIS. Though I do not recall any details about the dream presently, the eerie feeling that I had while sleeping, immediately after and even into the next morning is quite clear. My dream experience brought the reality that many have suffered and are suffering presently into the forefront of my being. For a moment, though subconscious and through a dream, I had what might be for some a very real feeling of sorrow or terror--of enslavement. The experience was personal and up close.
In today’s gospel, Jesus unrolls a scroll and reads from the prophet Isaiah that “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.” He then proceeds to tell us that “today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In our own time, there are many in our world who are enslaved or oppressed in variety of ways. I would like to believe that slavery is over, for as an international community we have acknowledged that slavery is a crime against humanity. And yet, human trafficking, racism, terror, indifference, displacement and greed are harsh realities for those most vulnerable in our world.
Several years ago I lived in Nepal. Recently, I received an email from a former student who comes from a poor village. He spoke to me of his current reality: “now due to the
political instability we are facing [a] huge problem of shortage and starvation of food, fuel, gas, kerosene etc...the government leaders are also involved in that black market and earning huge money. they are selling basic needs thing(s) in triple price. the high class people they can [afford] but poor people they are having [a] really difficult time.”
Dorothy Day once said, “No one has the right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do”. December 8, 2015 began the Jubilee Year of Mercy instituted by Pope Francis. Our readings today draw upon a variety of themes. Jubilee, though not explicitly stated, seems to be present in both the first reading and in the gospel. In the biblical sense, jubilee was the “year of the Lord” where all debts were cancelled and slaves were freed.
A question that comes to mind today for me is: do we have the courage to set each other free? There is a long list of evils that exist in our world, and as individuals we might feel helpless. Teresa of Ávila asserts that: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
The second reading reminds us that we belong to each other. Sometimes in prayer I visit the most vulnerable. I remind myself that if they are suffering through such horrors, then their horrors are somehow mystically apart of my story and are Christ’s mutilated body.
My prayer today is that Christians everywhere have the courage to love those in their midst and to act both within systems and in their daily lives for a more just world. While there is much work yet to do before we are all set free, still the first reading delivers words of comfort while we live in the already, but not yet realized experience of Jesus. “Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”