Our religious community meets together every Wednesday morning following lauds to read the coming Sunday’s readings together, and to share and comment how those readings can be applied in our life, both in our community as well as in our various ministries. Here’s a bit of the fruit of our discussion.
This coming Sunday we celebrate the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. Our readings are:
Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10: Ezra the scribe reads aloud to the people old enough to understand from the Book of the Law of Moses. The people show much reverence for the Law as the word of God, and their hearts wept when they heard the Law, but are encouraged to be people of joy in the celebration of the day of the Lord.
Psalm 19: 8, 9, 10, 15: Describes the beauty of God’s Law as perfect, trustworthy, wisdom, clear, true and just. We respond to the Psalm with “Your words, Lord, are spirit and life.” (John 6:63c)
1 Corinthians 12:12-30: Saint Paul reflects how the Body of Christ is diverse in its call to unity. It begins, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.” All parts of the Body of Christ are necessary, he explains, and we cannot have disdain for one because we don’t recognize its value.
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21: Our reading includes the beginning of chapter 1, the prologue, as was commonly used in Greek and Roman writing of Luke’s day (and, that was Luke’s intended audience). The writing is addressed to Theophilus (meaning ‘Friend of God’), with the purpose of affirming the teachings he has already received as true. After the prologue, our reading skips to chapter 4, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. This passage follows on the heals of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, and temptation in the desert. So, in Luke’s account, it is the first contact Jesus had with people following those two events and sets the stage for his public ministry.
When Jesus is handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah in his hometown synagogue, he finds the passage he wants and reads:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
He proclaims to the people that the passage from Isaiah was fulfilled in their hearing it.
The passage Jesus reads, taken from the prophet Isaiah was understood by the Jews to point to the coming restoration of Zion. Jesus takes this passage and uses it as his personal “Mission Statement”, outlining the purpose for His coming into the world. He has come to restore all things, and specifies three particular signs:
– by preaching;
– free people from their slavery (whatever kind that is involved); and
– give sight to the blind.
In retrospect, we can see clearly how these signs were hallmarks of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In very literal – and miraculous ways – Jesus did these things, and in doing them, restored people to their right dignity as children of God.
The challenge for us becomes one in the sequela Christi – in our own call to follow Christ. By baptism we are called to witness to Christ and our faith in Him, through our actions and words. The question then is:
“How am I called to preach, free and enlighten others in a way that gives a compelling witness of Christ?”
Enthusiasm. The enthusiasm found by the people in hearing the Word of God proclaimed to them in the reading from Nehemiah gives example of right attitude. They ‘listened attentively’. They responded to the word – with hands raised high (enthusiasm!) – Amen! (I believe!). There is a sense of excitement in their readiness to hear and live by the statutes of God. How much more should we have such enthusiasm having heard the Good News of our Lord Jesus who has come as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of a Savior? Do we listen attentively to the Word of God? To we respond with our hands (and hearts) raised high? Do we respond “Amen!”?
Use our Gifts. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians reminds us that as the body of Christ is made up of many members, our ways and gifts are different, and our expressions and means of serving will also be so. It is true, sometimes there are people in our communities (religious and parishes) that are gifted, and it seems that they have all that is needed to do the work. Yet, Paul warns that it is the weakest that are most necessary (this sentence alone is enough for another post!).
Therefore, if we are strong, let us be mindful of the weaker members, and find ways in which to appreciate their contribution to building up the body of Christ. They too are called to preach, liberate and enlighten as a witness of Christ in their lives (perhaps to us directly?). If we are weak, let us take hope in the Lord, we are called to be patient witnesses and to do the best with what we’ve been given.
Paul also challenges us to ask ourselves:
“What gift have I been given to help alleviate the burden and/or suffering of others?”
Our society is so burdened by many different things. Finances. Illness. War. Feuding. Fear of death and dying. Hatred and Violence. Concerns for the future for her children. Retirement. Unemployment. Injustice. Debt. The list seems endless.
Do I recognize their burden? how can I help lift it from their shoulders?
A more difficult question for us to answer is, “Am I, in some way, a burden for my sister, brother or friend?” Do I cause them to fall in some way?
Let us imagine ourselves standing before those we’ve encountered during our week, and hear us reading the same passage from the prophet Isaiah that Jesus read above. Are the words fulfilled in their hearing you speaking the Word of God to them? Can they recognize your sequela Christi by the way you live your life?
Lesson from Saint Francis
Saint Francis is my Patron Saint this year, and so I would like to share his prayer as a model of how we can help lighten the load for those we encounter. I chose to use the version adapted by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, used when addressing the United Nations in 1985:
Make us worthy Lord to serve our fellow men throughout the world,
who live and die in poverty and hunger.
Give them through our hands, this day, their daily bread
and by our understanding love give peace and joy.
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace.
That where there is hatred I may bring love,
That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness,
That where there is discord, I may bring harmony,
That where there is error I may bring truth,
That where there is doubt I may bring faith,
That where there is despair I may bring hope,
That where there are shadows I may bring light,
That where there is sadness I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted,
To understand than to be understood,
To love than to be loved.
For it is by forgetting self that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven,
it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.