Father Mike’s Homiletter – January 23, 2022
Scripture: Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19:8-10, 15; ! Corinthians 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Our readings this week continue and expand some of the themes from last week. First, we hear about Ezra and Nehemiah reading God’s law to the Israelites after their return from exile in Babylon. And while they say “Amen” to the words of the law, they are weeping – but the reading does not tell us why. Tears of joy? Not likely, given Ezra and Nehemiah’s response. Recognizing how far they have drifted from God’s law during their exile? Simply overwrought and overwhelmed by what they face – at the end of their rope? But Nehemiah and Ezra are wise men: they take an unexpected approach, urging the people to go home and rejoice, prepare a great feast, not forgetting to share with those who have nothing, because “rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.” Ezra and Nehemiah undoubtedly realized that a joyful people would be better able to undertake the work of rebuilding Jerusalem, not to mention their lives and their faith, as individuals and as a community.
Next we hear Paul’s continuing discussion of the many gifts the Lord has bestowed on the Corinthian community. Last week, he emphasized the variety of God’s gifts, noting that God had given them deliberately and for the benefit of everyone – not to make one person more important than another. This week Paul presents another image: we, the Church, are all one community, and our gifts and talents, whatever they may be, are essential to the life of the community; we are responsible for using them for the benefit of the whole. As a body, the Christian community cannot get along without the abilities of all its members. Paul goes on to illustrate: a body isn’t complete without eyes and ears, hands and feet, and no one part of the body is more valuable than another. Basically, Paul is telling us we are all essential. We may not see and/or understand God’s plan, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real and effective, and we aren’t an important part of it.
Our Gospel takes a further step: Jesus returns to Nazareth, and goes to the synagogue. It’s still early in His ministry, but He already seems to have a reputation as a preacher, and is invited to read from the Torah. We don’t know if it was a prescribed reading or simply Jesus’ choice, but He reads the Isaiah prophecy announcing the Messiah:
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.
Having completed the reading, Jesus rolls up the scroll, returns it to the attendant and sits down. For a moment, He says nothing, but everyone was waiting for His commentary. When it comes, it is earth shaking, if it is understood: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Some sitting there may have understood and taken Him seriously, others probably thought Jesus was pretty arrogant to compare Himself to the promised Messiah. Some probably missed the point entirely, or were just bewildered by His comment.
As we consider this passage during the coming week, we should give some careful consideration to what it means for us, today. If we fully understand the meaning of our Baptism, each of us should be able to say exactly the same thing: “…he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor….to proclaim liberty to captives…and freedom to the oppressed.” Isn’t that what Baptism is all about? Aren’t we all being invited to be bread for the world? What gifts and talents are we ready – and willing - to put at the service of the Body of Christ now and in the future?
Peace, Father Mike
Food for Thought …
Contemplation and action, the monastic and the domestic, passion and purity, duty and self-actualization, this life and the next, intellect and will, community and individuality …all of these, like a complete set of keys on a piano, are needed if we hope to play all the tunes that the various circumstances of our lives demand. One is wise not to cut off part of one’s keyboard.
- Ronald Rolheiser
From Domestic Monastery