Philip Javier: The Year of Compassion and Mercy

“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.” (Luke 4: 18-19)

This was not the first time Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth.

The synagogue was the place where he grew up with other children, studied God’s Law, conversed with his friends and neighbors, and performed religious events with the local people of Nazareth. This was also their town hall where cases were heard, judged and given penalties. And in this sacred house, it might not be the first time Jesus was called to read scripture before all the prominent and ordinary men of his town.

But this day was special. It was a reunion of sorts, a reintroduction. After months of extraordinary preaching and well-talked about working of miracles in various places, Jesus decided to visit his mother and to preach in his own town. The son of the quiet carpenter, Joseph, has come home.

Think of it like an athlete who had been made famous by his bouts and contests abroad, now returning to his native province, or imagine the euphoria for one talented group that had won an Asian title now back to their home.

People were excited to hear Jesus’ preaching. They wanted to know what has made him famous in the outskirts of Israel. They thought to themselves: What message will he deliver to us? Will he perform a miracle for us? Will he leave a great sign in Nazareth?

Jesus entered their synagogue in this frenzied atmosphere, read this passage from Isaiah, and unrolled the scroll to the prophet’s vision of Israel’s promised Messiah, the Anointed One, the Deliverer of God’s people.

After reading it, while everyone looked intently at his every move, he said to them: “This passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The people had only wanted to see what made him famous. But they received something more.

Jesus was revealing himself to them. He was sharing his true Self, and the truth that all his works were those of their awaited Messiah. More importantly, he was inviting everyone to join in his ministry.

Unfortunately, anger filled their hearts, confusion clouded their thoughts, they denounced him as a blasphemer and wanted to punish him right away.

***

Today the first week of school, many of you have entered a familiar place. This is your synagogue. For most of you, this is the place where you have grown up, where you studied God’s law in various subjects, learned with other young people and conversed with friends.

This place is your sacred house, for today Christ gives you the same passage that he had read. Here, the One True Messiah invites you to get to know more about him and to follow him in all your works. He wants you to fulfill this passage just as he has fulfilled it before.

Timely, this school year, the Ateneo High School chooses the theme HABAG AT MALASAKIT, Mercy and Compassion, as the over-arching theme for all the great events that are foreseen to happen. This was the theme of the papal visit last January and by using it again we relish the fruits and graces of Pope Francis’ visit, and take up the challenge of sharing in his works of mercy: bringing glad tidings to the poor, setting free the oppressed, giving sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed go free.

In this Year of the Poor, we thank the Lord for granting us a share of his merciful and compassionate work through the 40 years of the Tulong Dunong Tutoring Program and the 15 years of the CSIP, the annual KFD and all the other outreach activities that various classes, organizations and groups regularly undertake.

Also, we will join the entire Roman Catholic Church in “proclaiming a year acceptable to the Lord.” On the Solemnity of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, December 8. Pope Francis will commence the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy during which he will open the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica and start a whole-year special celebration of God’s constant loving forgiveness and care for all. In the same fashion, bishops and priests in various places throughout the world, including here in the Philippines, will perform the same rite of opening the doors of sacred sites and pilgrim churches – to signify that God’s mercy and compassion is for all without exception.

And so dear friends, let us take time to reflect quietly on these questions:

  • How has God been gracious and merciful to me?
  • How can I make a response of gratitude to God? What offering of greater worth can I give Him? What are my top three goals in school this year?

 (Pause for some QUIET time to reflect)

 “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.”

Let us pray.

In the Name of the Father, the Son + and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lord Jesus,

thank you for choosing the Ateneo

to fulfill your works of love and mercy for the poor.

Thank you also for choosing me

to fulfill your will for many people.

I am young but you trust in my abilities and look beyond my weaknesses.

Help me start the year right with a steady resolve

to know, love and follow you more.

Most Holy Spirit,

come to my aid,

help me fulfill well my duties as a student,

my own goals for the year,

and your holy will for me today

and every day. AMEN.

Mary, Mother of Mercy and Compassion, pray for us.

In the Name of the Father, the Son + and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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