The Lord's year of favour

By Father Chris Thomas

I was recently watching a television programme, the title of which was 'Does the Catholic Church need to change?'. One of the panellists was a theologian and whenever she faced a difficult question from the host, she simply smiled and said: "Whoever loves, lives in God and God lives in them." Love is the litmus test of the presence of God and I often think to myself that God is in many places that the Church cannot or will not acknowledge.

Love is at the heart of the Gospel. It is a love that shows us we are forgiven and redeemed in the person of Jesus. Our God has always loved humanity, has forgiven humanity from the very moment of creation. Jesus reveals the heart of God, showing us who God has always been. It is the most amazing, incredible good news.

Since God has loved us in such a way then we are to love one another. Love is the greatest sign to the world of the presence of God. This Gospel is not just about a personal relationship with the Lord, it also forces us into relationships with other people. We are called to know love and to share love and love is indiscriminate. For the Gospel to have any impact, the two elements – love of God and love of neighbour – must be proclaimed.

Diarmuid O'Murchu, in his book 'Inclusivity: a Gospel Mandate', says that: "Christianity stands or falls on its fidelity to the outsider." That is why in his Gospel Luke has Jesus proclaim his mission as bringing good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to prisoners – and announcing the Lord's year of favour. Jesus then shows that love is indiscriminate and is also for those who do not fit into our narrow understandings. He talks of a Sidonian widow and a leper called Naaman, both outside the Jewish system, being touched and loved by God. This was scandalous to the people of Nazareth even though it was part of their own history.

We are being challenged to think outside the box, to accept the unnacceptable, to love the unlovable. In doing this, we share in Jesus's mission to bring the Lord's year of favour to bear on the earth.