24 January 2010


24 JANUARY 2010. Today the Church celebrates Sunday of the the third week in ordinary time. This first phase of ordinary time (between the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and Ash Wednesday) is fairly short, spanning just six Sundays this year. And, so it almost seems as though the calendar gives us a rest between the intense joy of Christmas and the intense penitential preparation that sweeps in with the beginning of Lent. But, there is an anxiousness too because we know Lent is fast approaching.

Today's readings can be found here. The Gospel today is the story of Jesus' return to Nazareth. As was his custom, he enters the synagogue on the sabbath day and reads from the scroll. Following his reading from the passage of Isaiah that he selected he sits and, as those around him look intently at this son of Nazareth whom they believe they know, He says: "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Like Ezra that reads to intent listeners from the book of the law in the first reading from the Book of Nehemiah, so to does Jesus read for an intent audience. However, Ezra reads of the law to the people, while Jesus announces that He is indeed the presence of the law for his audience in Nazareth. And, while the people eat, drink and celebrate following Ezra's reading (even though they began with downtrodden hearts), following Jesus' reading and discourse, the people drove Jesus out of town and attempted to hurl him from atop the hill the town was built on. So it is for Jesus. From the early moments of His public ministry, and with those who believe they know Him, in our Lord's humility He is rejected by the people, the Father's loving creation. The people around Ezra celebrate for having learned the law. The people around Jesus are furious because they believe they know Jesus, making His words unbelievable and angering.

So, for we who would say that we know Christ, there is a question: Do we rejoice in our belief in Him? Or, do we reject Him, saying "I know the world too well to know this story of Jesus to be true?" Think about it. I am not asking about an outward rejection of Christ. I doubt anyone who would read this blog would follow that path. I am asking about all the little ways in our lives each day that we reject the message of Christ, Christ Himself, because we believe we know best how to conduct ourselves.

The second reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians tells us that we are all one body in Christ on earth. However, it does a curious thing--the second reading ends with a question. I ponder on the thoughts of those who decided where in Scripture to end today's second reading. Why leave us hanging with a question? The very next sentence says: "Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way." (1 Cor 12, 31) Then, the following chapter of the epistle gives us that passage that we have heard at every wedding in the Christian tradition we have attended--where Saint Paul extols the virtues of love ("Love is patient, love is kind.") and teaches that love is the greatest of all God's gifts.

So, what binds us together in the unity of the Body of Christ is God's love for us and our love for Him, expressed in the love we show each other. The people who heard Ezra read the law expressed love for their new knowledge in their celebration. But Jesus' native community in the Gospel does not express that same love; it is overshadowed by their pride. We can image them saying: "Who does he think he is?"

Each time we sin we reject Christ and His message: who does He think He is? I can do what I want, this is my life to live. That attitude, however, is the antithesis of love. In that attitude we cause a part of the Body of Christ, ourselves, to cease to function, even if in a small way. For that reason, among others, Christ and the Church have given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Each time we do not function as a part of the Body of Christ, each of has the opportunity to return to our loving God and reconcile ourselves with Him and our community--the Church. Just as love binds us together, no sin is an island.

Praise the Lord for the gift of reconciliation and redemption that He has given us. Reject all temptation to place our own desires above the teachings of Christ and His Church. And, when the fall occurs, do not let sadness and self-pity prevail, but trust in Christ and return to Him in reconciliation. We are all indeed one Body in Christ. Rejoice in that knowledge.

IMAGE: Ezra reading the law.

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