A Year of Favor — By Fr. Rich, O.P.

FrRichWebThis passage from Isaiah is read by Jesus from the scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth. The event serves both to fulfill the prophecy and stand as the “mission statement” for Jesus.

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.” (Is 61:1-2a)

For the Messiah to announce a “year of favor” was a big deal.

Every 50 years, the people of Israel were commanded to celebrate a Year of Jubilee — a year of favor by the Lord (Leviticus 25:10-12). God did not want his people to forget all the blessings and favors he had shown them over the years. Isaiah prophesied in a year of Jubilee that God would send his anointed one to bring his people back from their time of exile (Isaiah 61). The anointed one would bring good news (the same word as “gospel”) — news of freedom for those who were oppressed by sin, darkness, despair, and brokenness (Isaiah 61:1-2).

And that is what Jesus offered: an invitation to get past the estrangement of the Chosen People from the covenant between themselves and their God. In Matthew Chapter 23, Jesus denounces the Scribes and Pharisees in a series of pointed condemnations for how they have done grave disservice to God’s plan and God’s people.

So, in this declared year of Jubilee by Christ, he called his listeners to rejoice and celebrate. A jubilee year is a “time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families. This is a year of complete celebration …” Jesus was inviting his followers to return to God’s commandments of prayer and love, to rejoice in God’s presence.

So on this Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, we are called to rejoice: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand …” (Philippians 4:4-5) The time is drawing short — travel plans, celebrations, and preparing our hearts and our souls, our minds and our wills to kneel at the foot of the manger and welcome, once again, the Messiah. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Every year finds us in this space, seeking to find a way through the darkness, the dissension, the hatred and fear. We are looking for a way to that stable, to the Child. This day offers us an opportunity to pause, to celebrate the coming year of favor when Jesus will once again show us the way to his side.

“May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Thessalonians 5:23)