January 23, 2022
by Mary Lee Brock
Creighton University's Graduate School
click here for photo and information about the writer

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 69

Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Praying Ordinary Time

How do I prepare for Mass on Sunday?

As children we would have a lot of fun playing the game we called “telephone.”  We would sit in a circle and the game would begin when one person would whisper a phrase to the person sitting next to them.  That person would whisper the phrase to the next person and so on around the circle until the phrase got back to the person who had started the sequence.  We would be amazed and quite amused at how much the original statement changed as it went around the circle.

In these current times it can be easy to get unintentionally caught up in a game of telephone as we are bombarded with information and suggestions and opinions.  The readings today remind us of where we should place our attention.

In our first reading today from Nehemiah, Ezra reads plainly from the book of the law to the people gathered, including children who were old enough to understand.  As they heard the words Ezra was reading, the people came to realize their sinfulness and began to weep.  Yet, Ezra reassured them of God’s love.  What a powerful reminder to us to listen carefully to the word of God and to always remember the Lord must be our strength.

Luke, in today’s gospel, strives to assure Theophilus of the care and accuracy in his account of Jesus reading in the synagogue.  This account is the opposite of the confusion of the telephone game and could rather be called a “mic drop” moment, a phrase to mean enough said.  Jesus reads from the scroll about his prophesy, and then simply says:  “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  It would be wonderful if messages were always so clear. 

Praying with Ezra reading the law and Jesus reading in the synagogue invites me to examine the second reading from Paul to the Corinthians through a new lens. The metaphor that the Church is comprised of many parts of the same body is a favorite scripture passage and an effective way to open up discussions about community and variety in gifts.  But this time as I pray with the one body with many parts teaching, I begin to wonder if perhaps we forget to celebrate our differences while ignoring the power of being one body.  I wonder if perhaps some of the telephone game type information overload I experience at times is more about our metaphorically engaging in debating which part of the body is better, is more useful, is most cherished, is correct.  Paul reminds us that each part has unique gifts and a unique purpose in manifesting the one body.

Today as I repeat the refrain from the Psalm:  Your words, Lord, are spirit and life, I pray to be kind to myself when I recognize my sinfulness and ask God for guidance to be better by knowing I am loved.  I pray to remember the fundamental lesson that Jesus taught that day in the synagogue, and to strive to do as Jesus did by honoring the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed in any way I am able.  And I pray in gratitude for the talents that God has given me and ask that I be shown the way to use those talents to contribute to the one body of humanity.

And should I ever find myself in a lively game of telephone again, I pray to listen to the wisdom of the words of St. Ignatius: It  should be presupposed that every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor's statement than to condemn it.  Further, if one cannot interpret it favorably, one should ask how the other means it. 

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