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Showing posts with label Nehemiah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nehemiah. Show all posts

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Homily - The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

First Reading - Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10 ©
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 18(19):8-10,15 ©
Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 4:18
The Gospel of the Day – Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21 ©

Following Jesus

It is virtually impossible to filter-out the propaganda from what is true and good in the sacred texts, but it must be done. If you want to follow Jesus you will attempt to do it every time you open the book.

The reading today from the prophet Nehemiah is an example of this.

The scripture for today begins with a long segment extolling the virtue of reading from the book of the law and listening to the sacred text, as if God’s own self were present in them.

And yet the books of the law are the writing of men, written by and large, to advance their own ambitions.

They cannot be trusted or received without scrutiny.

God is not present in the scriptures. This may sound like blasphemy, but it is true. The sacred texts are as dead as any idol made of wood, stone or metal. Neither is God present in the liturgy, in the bowing and scraping and the obsequious praising of the mass. God is only present there insofar as God is present in the assembly, in the people gathered together, in their collective desire to love the truth, be humble, do good and serve justice.

This is where the whole of law resides, and it only comes through at the very end of the reading from Nehemiah, when the prophet orders the people to go out and send a part of their feast to those who were not able to prepare a feast for themselves.

Remember this; God is indeed the creator of all that is, the entire universe, and we in it.   

All of the things which we imagine make us different from one another, the things which we hold in hearts and minds, those things which divide us one from another, they are illusions born of fear and a lack of trust in our neighbors, in ourselves and in God.

This is the understanding that you may take away from the apostle’s words.

God, the creator of the universe, the God of Jesus Christ, is the God of all people. We are united to God symbolically in our baptism, and ontologically insofar as we are created in the divine image.

Baptism is a rite which ties us to each other in a symbolic way, it binds us to the life of Jesus and his death through ritual; the ritual is a reflection of our actual unity, a unity prefigures creation, the essential oneness we have with god that is at the core of our being, and belongs to us from eternity.

The body of the church is not the Catholic church in communion with the Bishop of Rome, or with the Orthodox Church or any other single group of Christians. The body of the church is greater than the entire number of self-professed Christians and other people of the faith; protestant, non-denominational, what have you. Neither is the body of the church limited to the people of Israel; both the old Israel and the new.

On Earth, the true church is the whole of humanity, everyone in existence now, everyone who has ever been and everyone who will ever be.

God has made us as a singular people, both here on Earth and throughout the universe. We are one body, all God’s children, throughout the universe and everywhere.

Remember this when you reflect on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, remember it well and think on it, because this was his teaching.

Something happened in Palestine, in old Judea, a movement began in Galilee, and spread across the world.

The Gospel of Saint Luke purports to have been written by Luke, he was a physician, and a follower of the sainted Apostle, Paul.

Together Luke and Paul brought the “good news” to the Jews of the diaspora, and to the gentiles, one and the same.
They preached the good news, they raised hope, built trust and poured out a ministry of love; it was the blue print for a community that was not of this earth, in it was the promise of salvation.


Bear this in mind; Luke’s Gospel, was not written by a man named Luke, it was written by the community he formed, it was written decades after his passing, and it was not dedicated to a man named Theophilus, but to all of God’s children, everywhere.

This passage tells us of the beginning of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth; a Jewish man who taught in synagogues, just as his followers would do in later years. Jesus, like Paul was a Jew of the diaspora. People called him Rabbi, this marked him as a Pharisee, a student and teacher of the law.

Jesus taught in the prophetic tradition, like John the Baptist who immediately preceded him. He exhorted people to action, he performed works of good service, and he told the truth as if it had descended on him like the Spirit of God.

Any of us who have taken on the work and volunteered to carry the mantle of Christ, they must adhere closely to the central point of this reading:

The work of the Christian is to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives, to restore sight to the blind and to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the jubilee (a year of favor, and the forgiveness of debts). This is work is never done, even though it is accomplished every day. It is work that never ends, not as long as humans walk the Earth.

As long as the world endures, these truths will need to be proclaimed, the year of God’s favor, the jubilee; that year never ends. It is God’s year, stretching into eternity.

If you envision yourself as a servant of God, then you must be a servant of the people; there is no other way to serve God.

Your teaching must be joyful and full of hope.

If you are going to proclaim liberty to the captives, you must then work to set people free.

In the time of Christ the captives he spoke of were the populations of people who had been taken from their homes as the spoils of war, and those imprisoned anywhere.

The Romans called their captive peoples servi, or servus meaning servant, meaning slave.
The slave economy of the ancient world does not look the same today as it did then, but there are hundreds of millions of people living in servitude right now, living without rights, without recourse to the law.

If you follow in the footsteps of Jesus, you must call for justice, and the freeing of these people.

You must restore sight to the blind, which is to say you must convince the rulers of the world and their armies, all the powers that be; you must convince them that there are other ways to peace and security than hoarding wealthy and protecting at the point of the sword or the barrel of the gun. We must convince them to relinquish their power, give up their wealth in order to foster justice for all.

Economic justice is the beginning, it must start there.

Know this, the blind Jesus speaks of are the world’s elite, they are the 1%, and the only cure for their blindness is the truth.

This is how you will set the downtrodden free, forgive their debts, not just once every seven years, but now and forever.

This is the take away from the Gospel today.

First Reading - Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10 ©

All the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law

Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women, and children old enough to understand. This was the first day of the seventh month. On the square before the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women, and children old enough to understand, he read from the book from early morning till noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden dais erected for the purpose. In full view of all the people – since he stood higher than all the people – Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’; then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord. And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read.

Then Nehemiah – His Excellency – and Ezra, priest and scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.’ For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law.

He then said, ‘Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.’

Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 18(19):8-10,15 ©

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
  it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
  it gives wisdom to the simple.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
  they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
  it gives light to the eyes.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The fear of the Lord is holy,
  abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
  and all of them just.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

May the spoken words of my mouth,
  the thoughts of my heart,
win favour in your sight, O Lord,
  my rescuer, my rock!

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 ©

You Together Are Christ's body, but Each a Different Part of It

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. If the foot were to say, ‘I am not a hand and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it stopped being part of the body? If the ear were to say, ‘I am not an eye, and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it was not a part of the body? If your whole body was just one eye, how would you hear anything? If it was just one ear, how would you smell anything?

Instead of that, God put all the separate parts into the body on purpose. If all the parts were the same, how could it be a body? As it is, the parts are many but the body is one. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you’, nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I do not need you.’

What is more, it is precisely the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest which are the indispensable ones; and it is the least honourable parts of the body that we clothe with the greatest care. So our more improper parts get decorated in a way that our more proper parts do not need. God has arranged the body so that more dignity is given to the parts which are without it, and that there may not be disagreements inside the body, but that each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. If one part is given special honour, all parts enjoy it.

Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them?

Gospel Acclamation – Luke 4:18

Alleluia, alleluia!

The Lord has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives.


Gospel - Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21 ©

'This Text is Being Fulfilled Today Even as You Listen'

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.

  Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time