27 January. 3rd Sunday (C)
1st Reading: Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10
Ezra the Scribe set out to re-instate the Jewish Laws
The priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. The scribe Ezra stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hash-baddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Responsorial Psalm — Ps 18:8-10, 15
R./: Your words, Lord, are spirit and life
The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple. (R./)
The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes. (R./)
The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
and all of them just. (R./)
May the spoken words of my mouth,
the thoughts of my heart,
win favour in your sight, O Lord,
my rescuer, my rock! (R./)
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-30
The Church forms many individuals into a living unity in Christ
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to he hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honourable we invest with the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
Gospel: Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
In the Nazareth synagogue Jesus proclaims a time of healing and freedom
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to procaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
A direction to follow
Before beginning to tell about Jesus’ activities, Luke wants to make clear to his readers the force that drives the Prophet of Galilee and the goals he follows. Christians need to know in what direction God’s Spirit pushes Jesus, since following him is precisely walking in the same direction as he did.
Luke describes minutely what Jesus does in the synagogue of his village: he stands up, takes the holy book, looks himself for a passage from Isaiah, reads the text, closes the book, returns it and sits down. Everyone has to listen attentively to the words chosen by Jesus, since they put forth the task for which he feels sent by God. He doesn’t speak about organizing a perfect religion or a more worthy worship, but about communicating liberation, hope, light and grace for the poorest and most unfortunate. This is what he reads: ‘The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord’. When he finishes, he tells them: ‘This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening’.
God’s Spirit is in Jesus, sending him to the poor, directing his whole life toward those most in need, most oppressed, most humiliated. We his followers need to work in this same direction. This is the orientation that God, incarnate in Jesus, wants to impress on human history. The last should be first in knowing a life that is more worthy, more free, more happy, the life that God want for all God’s sons and daughters from now on.
The ‘option for the poor’ isn’t something invented by twentieth century theologians, nor is it just something fashionable starting at Vatican II. It is the option of God’s Spirit that breathes through Jesus’ whole life, and that we his followers need to introduce into human history. It’s not possible to live and announce Jesus Christ if we don’t do it from the defense of the least and in solidarity with those who are excluded. If what we do and proclaim from within the Church of Jesus isn’t understood as something good and liberating by those who most suffer, what Gospel are we preaching? What Jesus are we following? What spirituality are we promoting? To say it clearly: what impression do we have of today’s Church? Are we walking in the same direction as Jesus did?
Good news to the poor
The mission of Jesus is expressed with great force in today’s Gospel. The Spirit that had come upon him in the Jordan River was leading him to proclaim a message and a way of life to teach. He had moved away from home, and had made such an impression that word about him had got back to his home place of Nazareth. We are told that he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as he usually did, and announced the start of a new age!
His sermon would be understood by anyone who was familiar with the words of the prophets. Isaiah had stated clearly what would happen when the Messiah came. Jesus read that wonderful passage to them, then rolled up the scroll and announced “Today these words are coming true even as I speak.” When he announced that he had come to replace the old Jewish love of law with a new law of love, it caused quite a commotion. At first we are told that everyone was pleased with his basic message; but in next Sunday’s gospel, we hear how this encounter ended up. Not too well, actually, but you’ll have to tune into the next episode next week!
The mission of Jesus is expressed with great force in today’s Gospel. “To let the oppressed go free, to procaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Human nature has some in-built resistance to God that results from original sin deep in our DNA. It’s a refusal to listen, and an insistence on going our own way. Some basic rebelliousness and pride leads to the blindness and oppression named in today’s gospel. This is not something that we can resolve without some help from outside. But Jesus has come to join us, to lead us, to save us, and this is the powerful Good News he announced in the Synagogue at Nazareth. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”
Dea-scéal dos na Bochtáin
Tugtar tús áite do shaothar Chríost in ár measc i soiscéal an lae inniu. “Ag fógairt saoirse dos na braighde, ag fógairt bhliain ghrásta an Tiarna”. Is cinnte go bhfuil rud éigin sa duine a chuireann in aghaidh grásta an Tiarna, rud atá lonnaithe go doimhin ionainn de dheasca Pheaca ár Sinsear. Sé atá ann ná an chluas bhodhar agus uabhar a thagann idir sinn agus ceacht soiscéil an lae inniu. Níl réiteach an scéil le fáil ionainn, tá cúnamh de dhíth orainn. Ach tá Íosa tagtha dár gcabhair, chun sinne a threorú, a shábháil. nil anso ach an dea-scéal rí-chomhactach san a bhí i gceist ag Íosa agus é ag caint i Sionagóg na Nasórach. “Tá Spiorad an Tiarna orm, mar gur choisric le hola mé, Chuir Sé uaidh mé ag tabhairt an dea-scéal do na bochta”.
(Aistrithe ag an tAth. Uinseann, OCSO)