|The Third Sunday in Ordinary
Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10
Psalms 19:8-10, 15
First Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
For the next six weeks we will be hearing Luke’s accounting of how Jesus spent His ordinary time. In today’s reading, we see and hear Jesus stating boldly who He is and what He is going to do.
In the First Reading, we hear from Nehemiah the Prophet and an experience of a long “liturgy of the word.” This reading from the Book of the Law brings the listeners to tears, not because it is so long, but apparently so demanding and such a call to repentance. Ezra and Nehemiah comfort the audience by telling them that “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep.”
The Word of God is not sent nor meant to depress us, but bring us “rejoicing,” because it is centered in the holiness of God’s wanting to be shared with us the Holy People of God. Who we listen to will determine what we hear and what we hear will determine who we think we are.
Yesterday, here in the United States, our newly elected President stood up in the midst of his people and gave his inaugural Address in which he told all what he was going to do during his term in office. Those who voted for him applauded with great excitement. Those who did not vote for him might have smiled and said to themselves, “We’ll see about that.” He stood up and said who he was and what he has come to do. During these next weeks and months, we will all watch him try.
Jesus, in today’s gospel makes His inaugural address as well. He reads His speech from the Prophet Isaiah which is one of the descriptions given by that Prophet about the coming Messiah as servant.
Jesus is in the midst of His friends in His hometown of Nazareth. They know, or think they know, who Jesus is. They listen and are impressed by His reading, but then He simply declares that He, the hometown-boy carpenter, is more than they know. “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” His listeners knew this passage and religiously waited for this “today.”
Imagine somebody, after reading the First Reading at our liturgy, would close the lectionary and look out at us and say, “This prophecy, which I have just read, is about me.” We would doubtingly ask the person to prove it or tell us how she or he might know this about themselves. We would be more skeptical then the new President's opponents, I suspect.
Jesus has heard Who He is and has believed. He now has to do Who He is. Actions flow from identity or the essence of a thing or person. A bell rings only its one note; it does itself. Jesus does what He is and that is summed up in the reading from which he speaks His “inaugural Address.” He has a vision of Himself and a mission for Himself. He has been sent to free all from their darkness, from their prisons, from their not knowing who they are which is the “glad tidings.”
The opponents of a President can try to make sure that what he wants to get done, doesn’t. They can resist his attempts to change things. They can hope that if he can prove himself inefficient, then they will be able to “toss the bum out” at the next election. He didn’t do what he said he would.
Jesus meets the same opposition during His days on earth, which include our times. We can prevent His mission within our own lives by not hearing the “glad tidings,” by continuing living in our darkness and preventing each day from being “holy to the Lord.”
These next weeks’ Gospels will display how Jesus lived and did Who
He was. He will meet His opponents and, yes, have some success in
implementing His platform. We are invited to resist our resistance
and join in His vision of us and His mission for us. By our being
in Christ’s Body, we do proclaim that each of us is how this “scripture
passage” is fulfilled in our time. This is how every day is “holy
to the Lord.” This is a cause for “rejoicing” not “weeping.”
“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.”
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