My Dear Parishioners:
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and due in no small measure to advances in science and technology, a new methodology dealing with society’s physical, psychological, ethical, moral, and social ills has been developed. Foremost among these methods is that of rehabilitation. From the Latin re, which means again, and habilitare, which means to enable, rehabilitation has been refined as the process whereby: (1) a handicapped or otherwise incapacitated person is restored to useful life through education and therapy; (2) the good name of a person is reinstated; (3) the rank, privileges and rights of a person are restored; (4) a person is returned to his/her former state or condition.
Criminal offenders who were once simply relegated to prison to protect society are now being rehabilitated through treatment and training so as to be rendered capable of returning to society and functioning as a law-abiding member of the community. Persons with addictions to gambling, drugs and/or alcohol, people with eating disorders, people with other compulsive behaviors, etc., now have hope for rehabilitation by participating in extensive programs offered at special centers by qualified therapists and counselors. Patients with physical challenges suffered as a result of accident or illness (stroke, heart/lung disease, etc.) can also benefit from courses of rehabilitation therapy. In the past few decades, some inner city neighborhoods that have been allowed to degenerate into urban jungles have been rehabilitated through the cooperative efforts of caring citizens.
In today’s scripture readings, the gathered assembly is invited to appreciate and become participants in another sort of rehabilitation, that which is freely offered to all people through the power of the Word of God. Jesus, as presented by Luke in today’s gospel was addressing a people in need of rehabilitation. No longer political or geographical exiles in need of renewal and restoration, Jesus’ listeners were nevertheless in moral and spiritual exile. Through his ministry, he spoke into the world a word of loving forgiveness that called all people home to God. Through his ministry, he offered rehabilitation to the physically and spiritually handicapped, the economically disadvantaged, the mainstream and the marginalized of society.
Paul in his continuing correspondence with the Corinthians reminds the gathered assembly that the rehabilitation of each of us is inextricably bound to the rehabilitation of all of us. As the one body of Christ, the well-being and conversely the suffering and difficulties that each of us experiences and by which our lives are sculpted have a necessary effect on who we are as a community. When one of us grows, all of us grow; when one of us stagnates, all of us are diminished. When one of us is in need, all must feel the pinch; if another suffers, I may not choose to be unscathed.
At the outset of this New Year, believers in Jesus are called to be rehabilitated by the power of the Word of God and to participate in the church’s mission of rehabilitating all of humankind.
All across the globe, the beginning of a new calendar year proffers an opportunity for leaders to address their people and deliver a speech, which sums up their vision for the months ahead. Presidents will comment on the state of the Union, governors on the state of the state, monarchs on the state of the realm. On those occasions when a leader is elected, re-elected or ascends to the throne, their address takes on a more inaugural character. Jesus first public address as presented in the Lucan gospel can be characterized as both visionary and inaugural.
As regards his vision, Jesus shared with his contemporaries the good news that the messianic era had arrived. Through Jesus words and works, God initiated the rehabilitation of a world that had fallen prey to sin and its consequences. As visible testimony to Jesus’ salving and saving power, the sight of the blind would be restored, prisoners would gain their freedom, the poor would hear good news and all would know a year of favor. The combined text of Isaiah 61:1 and 58:7, which Jesus read in the synagogue, can be understood as his inaugural address for in it he set forth the terms, goals, and objectives of his mission.
Luke was firm in his conviction that Jesus’ ministry was to be continued by the church. With the new chronological year just beginning and the new liturgical year already well underway, the faithful are privileged to have Luke as our guide. His special insights into the words and works of Jesus, (1) that the call to salvation is universally extended to all peoples; (2) that the salvation of humankind begun by Jesus continues to be accomplished within the arena of human history; (3) that prayer is as elemental to the life of the believer as is breathing; (4) that sinners, the poor, the disenfranchised, sick, lost, otherwise needy members of society are God’s special ones. These special insights continue to inspire and challenge the church as it furthers the process of rehabilitating the world in and by the power of God’s word.
I pray that here at Saint Stephen Cathedral, we look to all in our community who are suffering, alone, worried or stressed. We are all one when we gather around God’s holy altar. Again, when one suffers, we all suffer. When one of us is lacking in anything, we all are lacking.
During this ‘Winter Ordinary Time’ as we now move toward the joyful and holy Season of Lent, may we already begin to examine our conscience, do away with those behaviors, possessions or activities that keep us from knowing and sharing God’s mercy. May we truly understand the meaning of the word ‘rehabilitation’ and know that we all are in need of God’s healing touch somewhere in our lives.
Blessings, Fr. John