JANUARY 9, 2014

1 JOHN 4:11-18 ; LUKE 4:14-22

JESUS RETURNED TO GALILEE IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT.  Both of today's readings invite us to penetrate their message more deeply where spiritual meanings remain hidden from the awareness of the superficial listener. A fertile path leading into broad fields of the Spirit, for instance, is suggested by the statement just quoted.  What do we make of the fact that "Jesus returns to his home country in the power of the Spirit"?  These words can be understood at different levels of our understanding.  No one interpretation exhausts the possible significance they hold.  Saint Luke who wrote them certainly was not aware of all they have meant to very different readers over the centuries.  He seems to suggest that one of the points he had in mind he refers to in his final comments at the end of this text when he tells us that all "were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth."  Jesus words evidently conveyed not only information but imparted a force, life enhancing.  In fact, still today, after all these years, many who encounter our Lord's words in this passage or elsewhere in the Gospels, experience some interior movement in their spirit, a stimulus that imparts a freshness to life.  To really take his words to heart is to become conscious of an appealing way of feeling about one's values.  If Jesus was actuated by the power of the Spirit, the impulse arising from that inner encounter was not confined to himself.  And that is precisely the message Luke intends to communicate here.  Our Lord's audience were amazed because some of the force of the Spirit that inspired him was imparted by his words, adhering to them with a power that gave promise of a fresh vision, opening new vistas that offered a better life.  Though the text he had read to them from the prophet was familiar, his way of reading them transformed the latent promise they contain into a lively hope.  In some mysterious manner life offered new possibilities for in Jesus' words some portion of the power Spirit entered the heart of his listeners.

The words of the first reading are a most apt commentary that opens a further dimension of today's Gospel message: "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God."  Certainly to become a child of God speaks of a profound reality brought about through a firm belief in the person of Jesus as Son of God.  The expression John uses here in simpler words refers to our transformation, the restructuring of our identity: being begotten by God, from children of wrath through sin we become, by trusting faith, children of God.  This radical change is effected through the same power of the Spirit that John refers to as attending the Lordís speech as he returned to his home country.  That same grace of the Spirit is present among us this evening as we renew the sacrifice of the cross and make present the grace of the risen Christ in our assembly here.   May this gift of God's love, so fervently recommended to our faith in St. John's letter, be always actively present in each of us.  May we make it our purpose to remain faithful to Jesus our Savior, abiding with him who was ever strong in that same Holy Spirit.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger