3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 23, 2022 8:30 and 11am
Our Lady of Grace Parish, Parkton
A Healed Femur
Some years ago I read an article about Dr. Margaret Mead.
You probably know that Margaret Mead was a renowned cultural anthropologist. She was an American, and she died in 1978.
Dr. Mead was once asked what she regarded as the earliest sign of civilization on this earth. Was it an axe-blade, an arrowhead, a fishhook, a musical instrument, a ceramic bowl, or what?
Margaret Mead’s answer surprised her interviewer. She said, “A healed femur.” “A healed femur.”
Not something made by a human, but something human. Not an artifact, but a part of someone who once walked this earth, who was hurt and healed – of a broken femur.
Dr. Mead explained that where the law of the survival of the fittest reigns, a broken leg means certain death. If you cannot make it on your own, you’re doomed.
But a healed legbone, a healed femur is physical evidence that someone cared. Someone gathered food for the injured person until their leg was healed.
Someone cared for them until they could once again care for themselves. So, Dr. Margaret Mead says: the first sign of civilization is compassion.
Compassion – that is also the very heart of Jesus’ message.
In today’s gospel, Jesus begins his public ministry by speaking in his hometown synagogue. He invokes the six hundred year-old vision of Isaiah.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me  to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me  to proclaim liberty to captives and  recovery of sight to the blind,  to let the oppressed go free.”
Maybe we would call this Jesus’ mission statement. I also see this as my mission as a priest, and as our mission as a Church.
Mission of Compassion
So, first, Jesus proclaims “glad tidings” – and that means good news, the meaning of the word gospel – he proclaims good news to the poor. Here the word “poor” does not mean financially or materially poor.
Instead, it means everyone who knows deep down that they are in need, that they are yearning for something more or beyond life on this earth. Jesus satisfies this deepest need, and now we too are to share this good news in the same positive way that Jesus does.
Then, Jesus proclaims “liberty to captives.” He comes to free us from being captive to a life where we feel little purpose and meaning, a life that sometimes feels empty.
He frees us to live in the way of love – with the awareness of God’s love for us and, in return, our love for God and for one another. And now we too are to proclaim the freedom to live with this purpose to those held captive today.
Next, Jesus gives “sight to the blind.” He declares that he himself is “the light of the world.”
So he offers us light in times of darkness – like the darkness of grief, loss, sickness, depression, loneliness, anxiety, financial stress, whatever it is. His light helps us to see enough to make our way through darkness, and now we are to offer that same light to others.
Finally, Jesus comes to “let the oppressed go free.” He consistently reaches out to the three “Ls” – the last, the least, and the lost.
He does whatever he can to free people from poverty or prejudice or whatever is oppressing them. He gives hope to them and now we are to offer that same hope to today’s oppressed peoples.
So, what it all amounts to is compassion. This is the core of Jesus’ mission and the mission that he entrusts to us – compassion.
If we embrace this, we bring God’s kingdom more fully to this earth. And, in Dr. Mead’s words, we enhance and grow civilization on this earth.