3rd Sun [C] 2004

Fr. Charles Irvin

Nehemiah 8:2-10; I Corinthians 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21


All of us are quite familiar with inaugural addresses, especially when presidents of our country take office and begin their elected terms. Some of these addresses are, of course, more memorable than others. Unfortunately much of the content of these inaugural addresses bore little relationship to the actions of these leaders subsequent to these addresses.


Jesus Christ gave an inaugural address shortly after He returned from spending forty days and forty nights in the desert preparing for His public ministry. He returned to His own hometown of Nazareth to begin His public ministry. His inaugural address is what you just heard reported in today’s Gospel account:


     “He came to Nazareth where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: ‘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.’

     Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at hin1. He said to them, ‘Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.'”

Can we make Christ’s vision come true? It seems to me that the answer is “yes.” And to the extent that it isn’t yet true, we can make it come true. As a matter of fact we must make it come true. A huge part of our human misery is found in human rejection of that vision.


We can make it come true if we put aside our human differences, accept our commonly shared humanity, and live as members of one human body. We, you and I, by the way we live our lives and relate to others, ought to be able to say: “Today this Scripture passage is being fulfilled in your hearing.”


But we know that we Americans have a long way to go in order to live in fulfillment of the scriptures. These, I think, are some of the issues which we Americans need to address:


The phrase “separation of Church and State” has been twisted into a new phrase; “separation of religion from society.” The celebration of Christmas is to be suppressed and supplanted with a celebration of the Winter Holidays. Abortion, euthanasia, the degrading of marriage, and dissolution of what we mean by the word “family” and a bogus morality that is nothing more than simply “don’t get caught”, all are ravaging our culture. Freedom of choice has been changed to mean you have license to do what you feel like doing so long as you get away with it without getting caught. This was not the vision of our forbears when they established these United States some two-hundred years ago.


All too many Americans are of the opinion that religion and moral norms are a matter of private, personal preference. We are told they should have no bearing in our public activity, and that religion, politics, and the norms to which we should hold our public school teachers and elected public officials are purely secular. Separation of Church and State is always invoked. We are entitled now I think to ask whether separation of religion and morals from public life has brought us to the crisis in which we presently find ourselves in our American culture and society.


Liberty and freedom of choice, it seems to me, are grounded upon our acting morally with each other. Morals have a lot to do with sexual exploitation, respecting women, abuse of children, the abuse of power, exploitation on the part of our corporation executives, the norms to which we hold ourselves as a civic society, and all of that is expressed, or ought to be expressed, in the highest public officials we elect to office.


Jesus Christ’s vision, values and activities matched the words of his inaugural address. He did bring freedom to those held captive in webs of lies and deceit, to those held captive in addictive behavior patterns, along with freedom to those held captive and victimized under exploitative power. His vision brought us light, light in which to see the truth plainly and simply, so that we could say “yes” simply and plainly when we meant yes, and “no” equally as simply and plainly, when we meant no.


The consequences of separating religion, morals and values from our public life are manifestly disastrous, and can only lead us into deeper darkness and imprisonment under the domination of exploitative and corrupting power. Does anyone need further proof than that which is presently before us all to see in our television programs and in our newspapers?


The Bible, you see, isn’t so much as a creed to be accepted, as it is a task to be accomplished. We, with Christ, can be out there in the reality of our world making His vision come true. We can be bringing good news to the poor, liberty to those held in bondage, addictions and compulsions, and we can be giving the light of knowledge and vision to those who are blinded by this world’s darkness, and releasing those held in the bondage of contempt and prejudice.


Too many people, even nominal Christians, are spending too much time debunking the Bible, debunking religion, and trying to secularize our children and our world. They should be asking the question: Why can’t we make it all come true?


Christian values are not altogether different from the values of other great world religions. Respecting life, living in honesty and truth, establishing justice, working for peace, and building up our families are all things that we Americans should be about. To be told that we should keep our values to ourselves is totally un-American, a denial of our freedom to speak openly and publicly about what we hold to be true, and a denial of our basic human and civil rights.


The Spirit of the Lord is upon you. He has anointed you and given you His gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, steadfastness and courage. Live you commissioning boldly and courageously. With those first apostles, burst out of your private rooms and go out into the public square there, with them, to proclaim the values and the freedom that Jesus Christ suffered, died and rose from the dead to give you.


About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”