(I John 4:19-5:4; Luke 4:14-22)
Fifty years ago John Kennedy delivered one of the most inspiring speeches in history. “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans,” the young president said in his inaugural address, “born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage....” We may note a similar cadence to Jesus’ words in the gospel today.
Jesus returns to his home town to deliver his first public address in Luke’s gospel. He enters the synagogue, takes the scroll with a passage from Isaiah, and reads: “’The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor…to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind…” Then he announces, “’Today this prophecy is fulfilled in your hearing.’” The world should sigh in relief. Like President Kennedy Jesus has youth and capability to carry out his project. Infinitely more than the thirty-fifth President, his divine origins assure its accomplishment.
Kennedy was not a great man because he was Catholic. However, we can assert that his faith contributed to his sense of care for the oppressed, to his need to be strong in the face of evil, and to his loyalty to the sacred tradition of his predecessors. History has shown that he was not perfect. Nevertheless, to the extent that he followed Jesus’ program of renewal put forth in today’s gospel, we should aspire to be like him.