The Spirit bears witness of the Jubilee.

October 25, 1999

Romans 8, 12-17 + Luke 13, 10-17

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The week-day readings return us to Paul's theological exposition and Luke's narrative.

One of the things Luke's gospel is known for is its many depictions of women, and Jesus' close and tender relationships with them. From Mary Theotokos to Mary Magdalene, and many points between, women are prominent actors in the Gospel drama. Today's reading is one of many that could be cited to support this point.

Given the tenor of the times in which Jesus and Luke lived, it is remarkable that a woman was even mentioned. From the description Luke gives of her physical illness, most of the first readers (and many since) would assume that she or her ancestors had committed some awful offense against God to be so cursed.

And then, the woman is healed -- oops! It is the Sabbath, on which no work was to be done, and so the rulers rise up and say, "No fair, you can't do that on the Sabbath." Jesus refutes their obstinacy, "and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him."

Would we be brave enough to stand against power in defense of someone as marginalized as this woman? When people talk trash about people on welfare being lazy, do we nod our heads in agreement or do we speak out in defense of the truth?

If we're stuck to physical reality by itself, maybe not -- actually, probably not. There is no quicker way to become an object of scorn than to be poor and to defend the poor. People will pat you on the hand and say, "That's nice dear, let's be realistic OK, if you're too nice to them they'll want to stay poor all their lives." Plus it can sometimes be dangerous, as Archbishop Oscar Romero and many others have discovered.

This was no less true in Paul's day. Indeed, the penalty for publicly confessing Christianity -- for embracing the culture of life against a culture of death -- was often death, often via excruciating torture.

In the midst of this, Paul writes "For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." There's no doubt about where the power is here, it is a supernatural force that animates our entire existence. In that Spirit, we can certainly speak truth to power, and even be heard by power, for the Power which is above all earthly thrones is the one whom we by adoption can call "Daddy." "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are Children of God." Even if we are poor and homeless and live in a ditch beside a dump.

The Jubilee Holy Year is indeed what we decide to make of it. Jubilee is a time of freedom from every bondage, a day of cancellation of debts, a place where strangers are welcome and invited to sit at the table with the family. During the Jubilee concentrations of wealth and power are broken up, people return to the land of their fathers and renew their sense of belonging and place in a great reconciliation. It is a time to replace structures of Arrogance, Exploitation, Violence, and Death with structures of Justice, Beauty, Wisdom, and Love. Each time we open our hearts to the reality of the Resurrected Christ in our lives and do the works of mercy, justice, and peace -- whether they be actions great or small -- we bring the Jubilee one step closer. This Jubilee is the conscious creation of all of us who choose to be on this Journey and cooperate with Christ's grace in building the Reign of God right here, right now.

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