3 RD SUNDAY C 2013
In the scene of the first reading from the prophet Nehemiah, the temple had been restored after the people returned to Jerusalemafter the Babylonian Captivity. Many had been deeply influenced or even lost their faith in the many years in Babylonthrough intermarriage and influence of that secular society. They’d been living their lives without knowing how Yahweh wanted them to live. They had their own “Come Home” program through the preaching of the prophets: “Jewish Chosen People Come Home to Jerusalem!”
As the priest Ezra read the scriptures and the Levites interpreted the law of God, the people who heard were moved to tears. Have we, through our active participation in mass or spiritual services, heard the word as that two edged sword that enters deeply into our hearts? What is it that so touched those listening to the Law of God? Would that we would speak, pray and sing with an authority that comes from lives that are completely shaped by the gift and the promise of God’s teaching. at the gift they had neglected.
Nehemiah says, “Don’t weep. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine.” In other words rejoice! “Don’t beat yourselves up for failing to do something you knew nothing about. Just be glad that you’ve finally discovered what your faith obligations really are.” God always expects us to grow, to constantly evolve in the faith with which we’ve been entrusted. Our God is not a God of the past. God is passionately concerned with our present and our future.
Jesus has just been baptized and has spent time in the desert. Now he is ready to embark upon his public ministry. The mission of Jesus is greater than that of Ezra. It is much, much more. His mission is to rebuild hearts, not just their temple and their city, to return them to God, who is their true home.
In his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus was invited to speak in the synagogue. His reputation as a wonder worker and powerful preacher had preceded him, and the people hung on his every word. This was not the first time that they had heard this passage from the Hebew Scripture. But this time it was different. Jesus spoke with unmistakable authority, and their hearts were stirred.
What made the difference? The words came alive as Jesus declared, “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives.”
The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, to give the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.
The dramatic expression when he says that “this text is being fulfilled today even as you listen”, situates salvation in the present moment.You can just imagine some of the people finding real personal hope in those words for the first time!
The second reading today offers a very important teaching. Paul’s insights give us the foundation for understanding the presence of the risen Jesus among us: an essential part of early Christian experience.
In the first letter to the Corinthians in the chapter just before this one we hear today, Paul says, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. Persons should examine themselves and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment on themselves” (1 Cor 11:27-29).
Paul situates this teaching in the context of the Lord’s Supper. We must realize that when the apostle speaks about recognizing the body, he wasn’t speaking about Jesus’ body in the bread, he was referring to the body of Christ that comprises all Christians. In other words, those who refuse to recognize the body of the risen Christ present in those standing around him/her during the Eucharist are not ready to receive the body of the risen Christ present in the bread.
Scripture says: “You are the body of Christ!” It is important to note that Paul does not say “You are like the body of Christ.” “We
Paul then goes on, in the passage we heard today, to speak of how we are all baptized into one body. A body only functions correctly when each of its parts functions correctly. And that only happens when each part works together with the other parts for the good of the whole body. “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (12:26). The body is one entity, not just separate parts. Paul will go on to explain how love is the only force that can make those different parts of Christ’s body function as one.
Last Friday, at the Christian Prayer for Unity Service here in Sacred Heart, the Anglican Rector, Fr. Mark Greenaway-Robbins, spoke of what is required of us: we are to pray, reflecting on what is our understanding of Christian Unity might look like, to act, and to become friends. He focused on the importance of Christian human friendship as a way to overcome competition and rejoice in the goodness we share. Christ’s desire was to have us enter into a relationship of friendship with Him. “I no longer call you servants. I call you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have learned from my father.” Paul today explains how every member must have care for one another. Love is the only force that can make those different parts of Christ’s body function as one.
If, as members of the Body of Christ, we love someone, that person cannot be separated unless he or she positively rejects our love and our efforts to connect him or her to the family of God. The lifeline is there and of course, he or she must decide to hold the line and, at some point, still make a personal choice to belong. But as long as our love is there, that person is solidly connected to the Body of Christ. We need to trust this as we pray for family members and friends; as we invite Catholics to Come Home.