The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners . . . . Giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting (Isaiah 61:1-2).
One reason I enjoy memorizing Scripture is that once I know the text, it breathes its life into my spirit and I can more deeply reflect on its message than I would if I simply read it through.
This passage in Isaiah held my attention this morning as I related it to my recent experiences in hospitals where I've worked as a registered nurse. Most of the time nearly half (or more) of the patients on our unit are repeat admissions. They come to us several times a year with a variety of serious self-induced illnesses such as alcoholics with terminal liver disease, nicotine addicts with lung or throat cancers, diabetics who ignore their prescribed dietary, exercise and medication routines, drug addicts with skin infections, heart problems, kidney diseases or psychological changes such as paranoia and dementias.
As I thought about my experiences in light of the passage in Isaiah, I realized I usually viewed those patients as unfortunates who chose the wrong road on their journey through life. I'd not very often recognize them also as prisoners of Satan --bound with chains stronger than iron.
And that image of Satan's prisoners burdened me. Where, I wondered, where are the Archbishop Fulton Sheens of yesterday, the John Vianneys, the Catherines of Siena who each challenged and changed their culture, and in so doing set prisoners free? Where are the new Billy Grahams? The James Dobsons? The Archbishop Chaputs? The Father Corapis?
And where also are the ordinary men and women of God, men and women of the marketplace, the schools, the businesses, the university classrooms and lunchrooms who refuse to water down the "good news" for the afflicted? Men and women who will not kowtow to the culture, to speak political and social "correctness" and so lose their ability -- their God-given mandate -- to proclaim God's uncompromising truth which alone can bind up the broken hearted, give liberty to captives and freedom to Satan's prisoners?
I know where they are. They are reading these words.
You would not be a regular reader of this blog if you also did not have the same mind of Christ, the same compassion for the lost, the same heartache for those who repeat their poor choices as if they had no other choice.
This is the privilege God gives you and me . . . to set prisoners free. And we should never underestimate the importance of that privilege -- to bind up the brokenhearted, to give them hope for new life, a new journey in which old things are forgotten and wonderful new things lay ahead.
Oh, God, help us focus on that mission..