Fr. Richard's Sunday Homily, September 1, 2019
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
A Pledge for the Church’s New Year
Epistle: 1st Timothy 2:1-7
Gospel: Luke 4:16-22
Today’s Gospel is about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry according to St. Luke’s account. Jesus stands up in the synagogue, unrolls the scroll of the prophet Isaiah which was given to Him and reads, “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.”
This reading is chosen for today because in the Byzantine empire, September First was the start of the New Year. And, although in the Western world we observe January 1st as New Year’s Day, our Church still holds the first of September as the beginning of its New Year.
And I think that’s a good thing. We know how people treat January 1st as a holiday. There doesn’t seem to be much of the Holy Spirit of the Lord in those celebrations, even though other spirits are flowing freely. On those New Year’s Days people often wait for the clock to reach midnight so they can welcome the new year. But in our new year today we are presented not with the ticking of a clock but with the Master of time and eternity as the kontakion reminds us. He proclaims by the word of the prophet, that He has come for the poor and the needy. That would be us, friends. And He will bring good news, liberty, healing and freedom from oppression. That is also for us, dear friends. Jesus came for us. Jesus is here for us today.
As we look around our world, we can see people, so many people who are truly needy, truly poor, not perhaps in money, but poor in God’s life, with little or no grace to sustain them day to day. We see so many people who have no good news, only the news of their boredom, their dissatisfaction, their lack of hope that their lives can be better. We see so many people who believe they are held captive by the actions and wrongdoings of all different kinds of people (real or imagined) but fail to see how their own sins and hardness of heart are acting to keep them in chains. We live in a culture soaked in sex but not in love, and sex without love is always toxic. How blind we can be. And we live in a time where people find it almost impossible to consider the meaning of their lives in this world as they constantly seek for one distraction after another to fill the empty moments of their lives and help them avoid questioning why or how they should live in this world.
The answer to the question that people don’t want to ask is the very answer that will bring them the healing, the freedom, the insight, the release from captivity that is the cause of so much hopelessness, sadness, and pain. When people believe that tearing down other people for their sins, real or imagined, is better than looking to their own faults, when people think that getting high is better than living by higher principles, when people hold that murder in the womb is a health issue, when people say that sex is love and sacrifice is a dirty word, when we are told that we can’t even know what gender another person is until they tell us—and that might change again tomorrow—there can only be one answer for all of this: Jesus Christ. The answer so many people, especially the young, the one answer people will not accept, will not try. They will not surrender to Him. But without surrender there is no love. Without living in God’s love, we are the poorest of the poor.
Today since we are not distracted by champagne glasses, or party hats, or the ticking of the clock, let us welcome in the New Year by sincerely and honestly and with all the devotion we can muster let us turn our minds and our hearts to Jesus Christ our Lord and beg Him to come and be with us and guide us even deeper into His own life. He comes to us today more personally and more intimately than He did to the people in the synagogue 2,000 years ago. Let us pledge our lives to Him for He pledged his life for us—and He does so even today. As the kontakion says today, “O Merciful One, bless this coming year and in Your bou