In the first readings from Nehemiah, the priest-scribe Ezra stands to read the Book of the Law of Moses to the families who have just returned from Babylon. Their souls are thirsting for the word of God. Like men who find water in the desert, they drink in the message, spending the entire morning listening to the Book of the Law. They are “re-awakened” and are moved to tears thinking about all the time they avoided the Lord’s assistance.
The description of the congregation’s reaction to the reading of the Word of God serves as a reminder to us to listen with our hears and to “drink in the teachings” of the Word. The readings are meant to move us to action, to lead better lives, and to serve as better examples of Christ’s love for all. The Word is the source of life and wisdom, “It revives the soul,” “gladdens the heart,” and gives” light to the eyes.”
When we in our modern world listen to the Word, we are challenged to allow the Word to work on us, with us and through us just as it did 2,000 years ago. In our world, perhaps, we allow too much trash from TV, DVDs, Facebook, our computers and cell phones to eat up all our time that could be spent more wisely with just a few minutes each day of “Listening with our Hearts to the Word of God.”
In the Gospel, something quite magnificent takes place. Jesus, an outsider, not even a priest, reveals himself as one “With the Power of the Spirit in him.”
Jesus tells the assembly, “The Spirit has been given to me, for he has anointed me.”
And aren’t we anointed at Baptism and again in the sacraments of the Church later in life? Aren’t we also supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit and serving others with our “Christ-like Life”?
One of the fruits of our Catholic life, our “Christ-like life,” is supposed to be the “Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” That should fill us with inner joy — we are not asked by Jesus to be miserable people but Joyous in our proclamation of His Word.
Friday during the “March for Life” in Washington D.C. several reporters commented upon the “light-heartedness” of the crowd. When a newspaperman called me to ask about that, I said to him simply: “‘This crowd is mostly made up of Christian young people doing the Work God Gave Them To Do. Of course they are joyful and lighthearted. We should expect that.”
I noticed nobody called the gun control paraders of yesterday “lighthearted.”
One of the fruits of meeting Jesus and having a daily encounter with him through His Word and His sacraments is the “Indwelling of the Holy Spirit” and “inner joy.”
God Bless us all!
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
Related from Pope John Paul II:
“Carly, 17, Catholic. My goals in life are to follow Jesus Christ and run a mediocre blog. So far, so good.” — She’s Lighthearted!
(“Voldemort” is “The Dark Lord” from the Harry Potter stories)
As if to reinforce this sense of something beginning, our gospel this Sunday is, literally, about something beginning. We encounter the first words of Luke’s gospel, which then leads us to an episode a few chapters later in a synagogue, for the start of Christ’s public ministry. Even that echoes another beginning, since it took place where Jesus’s life began — in Nazareth, the scene of the Annunciation.
And in this moment, I think, Jesus offered another Annunciation: he was announcing glad tidings, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, freedom to those who are oppressed.
What comes through in this brief passage must have been startling to those who heard it; the people sitting in the synagogue weren’t hearing the fire and brimstone of John the Baptist. This wasn’t a call to repentance. This was something else altogether. In Christ’s first public teaching moment in Luke’s gospel—the Messiah’s first message to the world—he was proclaiming, in every sense, good news.
This is what the gospel is all about
The dictionary tells us that the very word “gospel” comes from Middle English, from “god-spell,” meaning, literally, “good tale.” Good news. And as we just heard, it is very good news. It’s about recovering what has been lost: sight, freedom, dignity.
Somehow, though, it’s that message that often gets lost and that needs to be recovered.
Last year, Cardinal Timothy Dolan put it beautifully in an interview about vocations. “The Church,” he said, “is always looked upon as saying ‘no’ to everything. And, we aren’t saying ‘no.’ The Church is one big ‘yes.’ Yes to anything that will make us happy in this life and the next.”
We need to remember that. We are people who believe in salvation. In reconciliation. In renewal and conversion. We are people who believe in the resurrection.
We believe in faith, hope and charity—to help the helpless and defend the defenseless.
We believe in the most enduring and challenging three words of Christ’s teaching: love one another.
Following Christ’s example, we are people who proclaim good news. Glad tidings. Joy.
We are a people of “Yes.”
So why doesn’t the world see that? It may be that we aren’t communicating it. It may be, in fact, that we aren’t living it.
In the synagogue in Nazareth, people listened with expectation to what Jesus had to say. As Luke puts it: “The eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.”
Twenty-one centuries later, the eyes of the world are looking intently at us. What do they see?
Do they see people who are living the gospel, the “good tale”?
Do they see people who have a deep and abiding friendship with Christ? People who have taken what he taught to heart? Do they see people uplifted by the sacraments, especially the Eucharist—people who literally receive Christ into their hearts and bodies and lives and want to share that with the world?
Or do they see people who are indifferent? Judgmental? Unforgiving? Hypocritical?
Do they see people who profess one thing on Sunday, but do another on Monday?
Do they look at us and see people still captive, still oppressed, still blind? The healing work that Christ proclaimed in Nazareth extends far beyond the physical limitations mentioned in Isaiah. It also encompasses the stifling limitations of sin—the blindness and captivity we carry in our hearts. That is what he truly came to change.
And his message reaches far beyond the geographical boundaries of a synagogue in 1st century Galilee. It cries out to us here and now.
Are we listening?
If there is one New Year’s resolution worth keeping, it’s this one: embrace Christ’s “glad tidings.” Resolve to live with Christian joy. As Cardinal Dolan might put it, resolve to live with “Yes.” Resolve to say “Yes” to the gospel, the “good news” again and again and again. Say “Yes” to possibility and to hope.
Luke’s gospel today is about great beginnings—the greatest, really, in all of history.
Four weeks into a new year, it reminds us that there is always time to begin again.
To start anew.
To say “Yes.”
Tags: 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, abortion, anoited, Baptism, belief, Blessed Sacrament, Catholic Church, Catholic Life, Christ like life, conversion, Encounter with jesus, Eucharist, faith, gives light to our eyes, Gospel, Gospel of Luke, Holy Spirit, in service to others, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, joyous, lighthearted, March for life, News, proclamation of His Word, reawakening, revives the soul, sacraments, source of life and wisdom, the Lord's assistance, The Word