Tuesday, January 19, 2016

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Our readings this week:
“In the beginning there was the Word…”  These are the dramatic opening lines from the Gospel according to John, and though we will not be reading from John’s Gospel this Sunday, these words ring true for our readings for this 3rd Sunday of Ordinary time.  The people are in the midst of something new… a new beginning that, as our readings will show, begin with The Word…

Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Our first reading is from the book of the Prophet Nehemiah.  Nehemiah, along with the priest/prophet Ezra, are the architects of the Restoration of Israel.  Their great Exile in Babylon is over, and through the grace of the Persian King Cyrus the Great, Israel is free to return to their land, to rebuild the Temple and to rebuild their lives as the people of God.  In an effort to guild them in this new beginning, Nehemiah and Ezra gather the people together and read to them the books of the Law so they know what is expected.  They’re all gathered at the Water Gate… because at that time the city of Jerusalem and the Temple remain in ruins.  As the Law is read, the people are weeping, but our prophet and all the other priests that this isn’t a time for tears, but for celebration, to rejoice in the Lord.  Why rejoice?  Our Psalm tells us, “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.”  We should not look on scripture as a list of restrictions, but rather, a guide to loving God and loving one another, and celebrating the joy that can bring.

Our Gospel also uses Scripture as a way to introduce a new beginning.  And to emphasize that new beginning our Gospel from Luke starts with the books opening lines, where Luke explains how he has committed to investigate “everything accurately anew.”  From there our narrative jumps forward.  Jesus has been baptized by John, spent 40 days in the desert being tempted by Satan, and before setting out to gather his Apostles, he has returned to his home town of Nazareth.  As was his custom, he went to the Synagogue on the Sabbath, and is given the scroll from the Prophet Isaiah.  After reading the passage, Jesus sits down (a little unusual given that they expect him to expound on the reading), but when pressed by those gathered, he tells them that this prophecy has been fulfilled in their hearing.  What was the people’s reaction?  Tune in next week to find out…

Our second reading continues our study of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  Last week we heard Paul explain how everyone receives different gifts, but that they all come from the same Spirit.  To further explain, Paul gives us his profound teaching on the Body of Christ.  Here Paul summarizes the need for community through our diversity… that all parts, though different, are part of one, and feel as one.  It is this passage that cries out for unity among Christians, as God intended.

Final Thoughts:
Next Monday we begin our annual octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, and what better way to prepare for this than with Paul’s revelation on the Body of Christ.  Though there are divisions among the different Christian denominations, we spend these eight days in prayer to focus on our common Baptism with a continued commitment to ecumenical cooperation and discussions.  These prayers and lessons can also help us realize this vision of the Body of Christ within our own communities.  Even within our own parishes there is a tendency to focus on our differences.  Instead, like Nehemiah suggests, we should let “rejoicing in the Lord be our strength.”

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