By Fr. Mark Emroll
“And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.” Luke 4:20
When Jesus begins His public ministry, He goes first to His own people. Jesus enters the synagogue in Nazareth. He is given to read from the Scriptures the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. He selects the following passage:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Isaiah 61: 1,2)
When He finished reading, the people were completely focused upon what He was going to say. He opened His mouth and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)
Jesus makes this same declaration to us every September at the start of the new Ecclesiastical year. As faithful Orthodox Christians, we should have our eyes fixed upon the Lord to hear the precious words of salvation that proceed from His mouth. Indeed, when Jesus speaks about the poor, He speaks to us who are perhaps poor in a material sense, but certainly spiritually impoverished. When He talks to the captives, He knows that we are captives of our own egos and sins. As He addresses the blind, we realized it is we who are unable to perceive the divine light of God’s wisdom and knowledge. As he preaches to the brokenhearted, we know He means us, who are wounded by external circumstances in our lives and also our repeated spiritual failures. At the same time, Jesus is before us offering His love, forgiveness, healing, and redemption. He, Himself is the embodiment of all deliverance and forgiveness.
The onset of the new Ecclesiastical year is the time when this offer is made to us. He has repeatedly promised these things to us and we have heard it countless times. We waste the opportunities to be converted to living and knowing Christ, unintentionally and intentionally ignoring His call and invitation. Our Lord waits for us patiently.
If we strive to live an Orthodox Christian lifestyle, we must look toward the Lord with our eyes fixed upon Him. We should turn our gaze away from sinfulness and have it remain on Christ. We work toward a more personal and intimate connection with God, Who fulfills all righteousness in our lives.
*Fr. Mark Emroll is the Parish Priest of the Annunciation Church in Dayton, Ohio.