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Jesus’ Prophetic Mission

After Jesus struggled with Satan in the wilderness, he returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and taught in the synagogues. “He stood up to read the Scriptures and was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.’ Then Jesus said to them: ‘This passage of Scripture has come true today, as you heard it being read.’” Luke 4:16ff. In this way, Jesus began to fulfill his prophetic mission of announcing the Good News.

The passage from Luke gives us two sources for knowing what the Holy Spirit worked in Jesus at the inauguration of his evangelizing mission. First, what the Gospels themselves say of Jesus. Second, what the prophets foretold about the relationship between the Spirit of God and the Messiah, which here Jesus applies to himself, namely,   that the Spirit would be conferred on the Messiah especially in the work of evangeliz-ation. Note: Pope Paul Vl states that the Spirit is the principal agent in evangelization.

Kerygmatic Jesus. We read in Luke’s account that all the people in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on Jesus. Can you imagine their astonishment? This carpenter whom they had seen grow up in their hick town of Nazareth. They had to ask themselves: What had transformed him into God’s prophet? The only answer is that the Spirit had called forth Jesus’ radical faith, hope and love which transformed him into a kerygmatic evangelist. The word “kerygmatic” (pronounced ker-ig-‘mat-ik) means “proclaim” such as is the function of a herald or an official messenger. But with Jesus there was a big difference. For him there was the inner dynamic process of radical faith, hope and love working inside him (prompted by the Spirit) that erupted into kerygmatic evangelism.

The Spirit does not give Jesus the word to preach, for Jesus is himself the Word of God, but the Spirit gives force to his word by conferring authority and efficacy on it. “Never before has anyone spoken like this one.” Jn 7:46. Above all, the Spirit gives Jesus the strength not to become discouraged in his moments of failure, conflict and rejection.

Kerymatic Church. Note that kerygma or proclamation of the Good News is uniquely important in the evangelization process, for like Jesus, kerygmatic evangelism flows out from the depths of our radical faith, hope and love. The result? It arouses faith! Unfortunately, the Church has divided the Good News into two components, according to Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa: one, proclamation of what God has done in Jesus which is truly the gospel; and second, the teaching that stresses completeness and orthodoxy of the content of the faith itself. The teaching tends to form and support faith, but it is kerygma that arouses faith. Fr. Cantalamessa states that the Church must return to the early Church’s emphasis on kerygma and the miracle of coming to the faith.

Kerygmatic Cursillistas. For Cursillistas, kerygma is the key to everything—message, method, style, witness and commitment, according to The Fundamental Ideas of the Cursillo Movement, page 105ff. The message is the proclamation of Jesus the Savior and the gifting of the Spirit. The method is to ignite desire for conversion of principles, behavior, whole life. The style is joyful, deep, heartfelt, lived conviction. The commitment is in giving witness that our proclamation is carried out by testimony of our lives. Lives that are the radiation of radical faith, hope and love!

At its beginning, Cursillo created excitement with its kerygmatic evangelism that invited people to conversion. We must recapture that original kerygmatic evangelism.

Jesus’ Kingly Mission

Jesus’ whole life unfolded under the action of the Holy Spirit such as his choices of the apostles and working of miracles. However, a special moment took place at the very beginning of his ministry when the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted. Mk 1:22. In the struggle with the devil, Jesus fulfills his kingly mission to overthrow the kingdom of Satan and establish the kingdom of God.

No doubt Jesus was surprised by this turn of events. Jesus went into the wilderness to pray and to fast. He wanted to make a solitary retreat to acquire a deeper understanding of the Father’s revelation and the purpose of his mission. But the Spirit had other intentions and the Spirit was calling the plays.

Spirit’s Support. We read in Luke 4:1ff that Jesus was tempted by the devil for 40 days: “In all that time he ate nothing so that he was hungry when it was over.” First, the devil tempted him to turn stones into bread. Next, the devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he worshipped him. Finally, the devil tempted him to tempt God by forcing God to rescue him from a deliberate fall from the temple’s highest point. In the end the devil melts away. Here we witness Jesus courageously taking on the powers of darkness. Was Jesus left to fend for himself as a solitary man? No. The Spirit was a continuous presence in Jesus’ life, strengthening his powers of faith and hope.

In his book, “The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus”, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa sums up the significance of Jesus’ clash with the devil. He states that Jesus’ threefold no to the devil’s temptations were in fact an unconditional, loving, threefold yes to the Father’s will: “Satan’s defeat thus begins where his victory first began: in an individual’s free will. Jesus appears to us, at this moment, as the new Adam at last uttering that free yes for which God had created heaven and earth.”

Yet, Jesus’ final victory over Satan had not taken place. It was only on the cross, obedient to his Father’s will even unto death, that Jesus finally breaks the power of Satan. Hebr 2:14. Nevertheless, for us the struggle continues on.St. Paul warns: “Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” Eph 6:12.

Our Mission. We are called to complete Jesus’ kingly mission to overthrow the kingdom of Satan and establish the kingdom of God. We are called to subject the whole of human life to divine critique and wrestle with the powers of evil—as Jesus did, with the power and support of the Holy Spirit.

Theologian Gregory Baum states in Man Becoming that the “disclosure of the demonic is part of God’s message of salvation. Revealing himself, God has also disclosed the demonic in history.” Where do we find the demonic, the evil that vastly exceeds the harm that can be done by men’s evil choices? We find the demonic at the institutional level, Baum says, when institutions forget the purpose for which they were created and make themselves their own end, treating people whom they were meant to serve as objects or numbers.  For example, when governments or church institutions elevate themselves to a superior caste concerned with their own power and privileges.

Sometimes we too struggle in the wilderness when we are exposed to repetitive, compulsive, and relentless pathological forces that threaten to devour us and make us do awful things which we do not freely choose. The pathological makes us compulsively relive unresolved conflicts of the past, makes us unconsciously inflict hatred and anger on people whom we consciously respect or clamor for massive revenge against people whose disagreement with us is only slight. We live in a wilderness, but with the Spirit!