HOMILY

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3rd Ordinary Sunday                                                     Luke 1: 1-4; 4:14-21

Our gospel begins with Luke’s prologue and dedication to the book he is about to write. He represents himself as a true historian who has been very careful to get accurate information from relevant sources. He transmits apostolic traditions and writes to strengthen the faith of fellow Christians. His friend Theophilus is likely to be a distinguished, high-ranking official of the Roman government and will be told the facts of Jesus life in defense of the rumors and stories he is being told by people who do not know or understand the Messianic mystery. 

The gospel reading then quickly switches from his prologue into the start  of Jesus’ preaching in the synagogue of his home town of Nazareth. This is not Luke’s change but the Church’s emphasis of how Jesus begins his public life. Luke begins with this event  since he is not aware of the wedding of Cana, which was only attended by his first selected apostles and is conveyed only in John’s gospel. Therefore, Jesus begins his mission at Nazareth, where he and his parents lived and he grew up. 

For the Jews, the Sabbath was a day of rest and prayer, as God had commanded. On that day they would gather together to be instructed in the holy Scripture. At the beginning of this service they would all recite the Shema, a creed like prayer of the Jews said daily, a summary of the precepts of the Lord and his blessings. Then a passage was read from the book of the Law (Pentateuch) and another from the prophets. At times someone would volunteer and request the honor of giving this address. In this case it is presumed that Jesus asked for this opportunity to instruct the people. 

The words of Isaiah, which Christ reads, describe graphically the reason why God has sent his Son into the world; to redeem man from sin, to liberate them from slavery to Satan and from eternal death. Jesus did not come to eliminate all forms of sickness and disease in life; he worked miracles not so much to release the people concerned from their suffering, as to validate that he had a God given mission to bring eternal redemption to all the world. The Catholic Church, continues that mission of Christ. “Go therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, too the close of the age.” (Mt. 28:19-20) 

Through his proclamation Christ goes on to prove the authenticity with which he preaches and explains the meaning of this scripture. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus is telling us that this prophecy and by extension, all the other prophecies in the scriptures refer to him and find fulfillment in him. The people are amazed at the authority of his preaching. 

The key word in his proclamation is the word “Today.” Today is the day you are hearing this word whenever you hear it. When Jesus speaks his every word is measured with divine wisdom to relate not only to the people of his day but to all people over the ages of time. Jesus’ word for us is entirely different than it was for the people of ancient Israel. The difference is told to us by St. Paul in our second reading. The Jews of old were individuals belonging to a community weeping with joy at the Law of Moses. We, on the other hand, are interrelated within the body of Christ. With us there are individuals no more, just organs or ministries that function within the whole organism, the Church, the whole body of Christ, is present and indivisible. We live in Christ and for each other. Each of us has to carry out our own mission; we must live outside ourselves in love with each other and with Christ. When we speak of this Body of Christ we must be careful, because we have a tendency to understand this as an interesting metaphor; this mystery is not a metaphor, it is a spiritual, metaphysical reality.

The first part of the celebration of the Eucharist we call the Liturgy of the Word. Today, the scripture passages focus our attention on the importance of this inspired Word of God. The Word is called sacramental, in the sense that when it is spoken, read or heard, God becomes present in our mind. For that to happen, of course, we must be listening, we must accept it into our hearts and then put it into practice. — Do we truly reverence the presence of God in the Liturgy of the Word?  When the deacon carries in the Book of Gospels do we recognize what it represents or do we look at it as a thing to give the deacon something to do. No, the Word of God is precious, so precious in fact that a third century preacher named Origen, explained it like this: “You receive the body of the Lord with special care and reverence lest the smallest crumb of the consecrated bread fall to the floor. You should receive the word of God with equal care and reverence lest the smallest word, the tiniest meaning fall to the floor and be lost to us.”

I would suggest this to you: when you go home after attending Mass, think about  some idea, some thought, from the liturgy of the word; it may be from the Gospel, the readings, the Psalm, or the homily; something that struck us and remained in our head after we heard it. Then we should ask ourselves, “what is the Lord saying to me?” For if we never ask ourselves what the Lord saying, we can’t expect the Word of God to bring its meaning to us. As we nourish and feed ourselves on the Word of God every day, it will help us to perceive his will. 

Here is a bumper sticker I would love to see: The Bible is a love letter sent by God to his people. So go home, dust it off, and enjoy!

qExt meeting © JOSEPH MEILINGER 2021