The Spirit-filled for the Spirit-less

Moving on into the Ordinary Time of the Liturgical Year, we get down to the spadework of establishing and deepening our religious foundation. The gospel reading (Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21) presents Jesus in His distinctive significance to us: the One filled with the Spirit of God, proclaiming and fulfilling the good news of salvation.

In the power of the Holy Spirit

In Saint Luke’s purported intention of putting together a catechesis (an orderly sequence of teachings) regarding Jesus for the assurance of those already initiated in the faith, one certain tradition is that Jesus was led by and filled with the Holy Spirit. He was anointed with the Spirit after His baptism at the JordanRiver  (Luke 3:22); He was led into the desert by the Spirit (4:1), where He vanquished the devil. He began His Galilean ministry empowered by the Holy Spirit, going all over Galilee and teaching in the synagogues. As the news of Him spread throughout the whole region, all praised Him for his Spirit-filled preaching and activities.

He returned to His hometown Nazareth, and as His inaugural declaration there, He asserted during the Sabbath morning liturgy of the Word that in Him was already being fulfilled what the prophet Isaiah foretold: the coming of the awaited one on whom the Spirit of the Lord rests. In the Spirit, Jesus is like a sunburst of divine power drawing in everyone. The previously quenched Spirit now returns to God’s people in and through the Anointed One, the Christ or Messiah, introducing the salvation of humankind.

For the liberation of the people

A combination of texts from Isaiah (61:1ff and 58:7ff) serves the evangelist well as a magna carta of a liberation program by Jesus. Spelling out for what purpose the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him, Jesus specifies His mission as the heralding of the good news to the poor, liberty for captives, sight for the blind, release for prisoners and a jubilee year or a year of favor for all. The preaching of the good news of salvation to the poor is one of the signs of the coming Reign of God. Hope and joy amidst the world of sin and evil, very much like liberty and release for sinners who are for practical purposes captives and prisoners; or, sight for those who are blind and live in a world of darkness.

Jesus has brought about the ultimate jubilee year by his preaching of freedom and restoration and by His healing, both physical and spiritual, in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament according to the law of Leviticus (25:8-17, 23-55) every fiftieth year (seven cycles of seven years, or seven sabbatical years) the Israelites should free their slaves, erase all debts, return landed property to its original owner, let the earth rest without seeding or harvesting. The jubilee year as a year of grace is a symbol of the time of salvation brought about by the Anointed One.

Alálaong bagá, in the humanness of Jesus as the One Anointed with God’s own Spirit, the time of grace and salvation has dawned for all who believe even as they struggle against sin. Jesus’ mission of liberation is ongoing, still being achieved. The jubilee year has been proclaimed already in our Christian Philippines. We have been anointed already with the Spirit of God made available by Jesus Christ. Our proclamation of the good news to the poor and the little ones, our striving for freedom for all especially those enslaved and oppressed, for light for those in the darkness of pain and poverty, and forgiveness from sin, are all but extension of what Jesus has begun. But, we are still a long way from being released as a people from our many forms of captivities and oppressive socio-cultural structures and practices that pin us down in violence, injustice and poverty. We exist in the contradiction of being supposedly Spirit-filled in a world of our making that is Spirit-less. A radical transformation is necessary if we really are to enjoy Jesus’ fullness of life in the Holy Spirit.

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Msgr. Sabino Vengco Jr.

Msgr. Sabino Azurin Vengco, Jr., SThD, is a priest of the Diocese of Malolos, hailing from Hagonoy, Bulacan. His more than fifty years of priestly life and ministry has been focused on teaching the faith in various theological faculties and also on mass media, and inlooking after the welfare of elderly and sick Filipino priests nationwide.

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