3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
In the introduction to his Gospel, Luke tells us that many had undertaken to write about the Christ-event on that basis of what was “handed down … by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.” The idea of “handing down” could also be translated as “tradition”: the Latin word from which we get “tradition” means precisely this: “handing down.”
What others before Luke recorded and what Luke in turn has written down came to them through Tradition from those who were the first to witness and to minister the word. Luke’s Gospel and indeed all Scripture is the work of Tradition while Tradition in its turn, as Vatican II tells us, “transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit (Dei Verbum 9).
Catholics have perhaps in more recent times lost a sense of Tradition to some extent. Vatican II however reminds us that “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church” (DV 10). The living Word of God is handed down to us in the living Tradition of the Church.
As the Word of God made flesh – the same Word Who speaks to us in Holy Scripture – begins His public ministry, He quotes from the prophet Isaiah. In this quotation He provides us with a key to understanding His ministry. This ministry is directed pre-eminently to “the poor,” to “captives,” to the “blind,” and to “the downtrodden.” While these terms can be taken in a literal sense, it is possible to accord them a wider metaphorical range.
The Church as the Body of Christ, animated by His Holy Spirit, has from the very beginning continued Her Master’s concern for those who suffer in any way. In spite of negative public commentary that might lead one to think otherwise, the Church continues to be at the forefront of those who dedicate themselves to service of those who find themselves on the margins of society.
This concern for the poor, captives, the blind, and the downtrodden, has translated itself into a supremely rich body of social teaching, a fact that contemporary criticisms of the Church as concerned only with abortion and homosexual “marriage” ignore. The latest documents that have contributed to this teaching are Benedict XVI’s encyclicals, Deus Caritas Est and Caritas in Veritate.
The Church in her social teaching proclaims the inviolable dignity of each and every human being. Logical consistency precludes her from ignoring the unborn, particularly at a time of unprecedented rates of abortion. Indeed, this opposition to the killing of unborn human life is deeply rooted in Tradition. Early Christian witness is unequivocal in proclaiming that killing the unborn and the new-born is always wrong. When we go back into the Old Testament, we find the same attitude.
The living Word of God that is bequeathed to us in Scripture and Tradition, the same Word Who took on human flesh in Bethlehem and Who dwelt among us, proclaims the sanctity of all human life. If our minds and hearts have truly been transformed by the Good News, we too will make our contribution to defending the most defenceless in our midst and strenuously oppose any legislation that sanctions the elimination of innocent human life in the womb.
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
-Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21