Jesus begins his public ministry by reading from scripture in the synagogue. He selects a passage from Isaiah that links his mission with the prophetic tradition: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)
He concludes this reading with the words, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). According to Luke, then, Jesus’ ministry fulfills the hopes and expectations inaugurated by the prophets.
This scriptural passage would evoke not only Isaiah and other prophets who proclaimed a similar message but also, through reference to a “year acceptable to the Lord,” Jesus’ message would recall the concept of Jubilee, a period designated for the restoration of people to right relationship with one another and with God. A foundational element of this period is release from bondage, including, for example, liberation from indentured servitude, restoration of property, and the forgiveness of debts:You shall treat this fiftieth year as sacred. You shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to your own property, each of you to your own family (Leviticus 25:10).
Catholic social teaching reiterates this idea of restoration that echoes through the Hebrew and Christian scripture in its “Call to Family, Community and Participation.” Family is the fundamental unit of society: efforts must be made to strengthen family life. What is more, as a member of the one human family, each person is called to participate in community life through economic and political means. Our tradition challenges us to create opportunities for people to participate in building the commonweal by creating jobs and encouraging direct participation in political life through voting and advocacy. We must both encourage others to participate and do so ourselves as a way to foster the common good of all. At times, as God demands through Jubilee, it may be necessary for those who “have more” to make radical sacrifice in order to provide a “hand up” to those who are “without.”
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Religious Studies
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.