Daily Reflection
January 10th, 2008

Roc O'Connor, S.J.

Rector and Campus Ministry
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I like this passage a lot! It offers me a picture of discipleship that is both challenging and consoling. I would like to show you why I like it so much. Sorry to say, but it may seem like going back to school for a bit. I hope the results are worth it for you.

The Greek version (Septuagint) of the passage from Isaiah 61:1 reads like this:
The Spirit of the Lord us upon me,
because he has anointed me;
he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the broken in heart,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind…

Would you please compare that to my translation of the passage from Luke:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.
Thus, he anointed me
to evangelize the poor;
he has sent me to proclaim release to captives,
and to the blind, sight,
to send on mission those who have been broken/crushed in freedom…’

Luke adapts the Greek version of the prophet in a couple ways. First, he shifts the lines around a bit. See that? Second, he changes the Greek verb in Isaiah meaning “to heal” to the word that serves as the basis of our English word, “apostle.” It’s the term used for someone sent on mission. I translated that term in Luke literally to highlight the ones sent on mission.

Whom does Jesus intend to send out on mission? He sends “Those who have been crushed” tethrausmenous, the perfect passive participle of thrao, “to bruise, or to crush.” While this word appears only once in Luke, it does have strong Old Testament roots.

In Numbers 24:17 it refers to the victory of “a star out of Jacob” who will crush the borderlands of Moab.

In Deuteronomy 28:33 it describes the results of not obeying the Lord, observing all commandments and decrees: “A people whom you do not know shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors; you shall be continually abused and crushed…”

The prophet Ezekiel uses it to describe the results of the news of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple given to the exiles in Babylon: “Because of the news that has come. Every heart will melt [lit., be crushed] and all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint and all knees will turn to water…” says the Lord God.” (Ez. 21:7)

Finally, Isaiah (58:6), the passage the Church proclaims on Ash Wednesday, says: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” The phrase translated from the Septuagint, “to let the oppressed go free,” is a near exact replica of the phrase that Luke uses at this crucial point.

Yet, it does not use Luke’s verb, ‘aposteilai. What I want to argue for here is that, given the context of the New Testament, the verb ‘aposteilai takes on new force. In every other place in Luke (27 times in the gospel; 24 times in Acts) the word always means “to send.” It always describes Jesus’ own mission or the mission given to the disciples.

So, to sum up, I see tethrausmenous as describing discipleship in terms of experiences of loss and disillusionment and grief. A disciple is, in essence, what Henri Nouwen described as a “Wounded Healer,” a person whose ministry emerges from the depths of one’s suffering. It seems to me that Jesus’ declaration in the synagogue shows us what it means to be a disciple. At least it helps me put into a gospel context all the “stuff” I’ve gone through in life. You?

Does this interpretation resonate with your experience of discipleship? Does it make sense? Do you notice any resistance to being sent as one who is crushed or brokenhearted?

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