The inaugural address of Jesus of Nazareth

I must admit that I didn’t read President Obama’s inaugural address – partly because I am tired of the words of politicians, no matter what their ideology.

But today’s Gospel gives us what is for me the real inaugural address of followers of Christ: Luke 4: 14-21.

Jesus has returned to his hometown and takes a text from the prophet Isaiah to proclaim his mission. He tells the people, straight away, where they can find him

Bringing good news to the poor,
Proclaiming liberty to captives
and new sight for the blind,
Freeing the oppressed,
Announcing a year of jubilee.

But these are not mere words. They are, as Jesus said, “fulfilled in our hearing.” They have been made flesh in a God who has put Himself on the side of the poor and the marginalized, who promises the real liberty of bringing people out of misery, who calls for a year of Jubilee when unjust structures are brought down and equity rules. If you read the Gospels with an open heart you will see that the life and deeds of Jesus live out these passages from the prophets.

This inaugural speech and its being lived out in Jesus is, in part, a political program that should frighten US conservatives and liberals, because it calls for real conversion; it calls us to be a People of God, a Church, where the poor are at the center of our lives, where freedom is lived out in love, where there is no distinction between rich and poor, and where all have their part in building up the Body of Christ.

But it is a project that will bring pain and persecution – because it opposes structures of consumerism, greed, militarism, empire, and racism by living in a different way.

This is the challenge for all of us who claim to follow this Jesus.

It starts where we are, so that the scripture may be fulfilled.

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