A Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C).
Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10 – 1Corinthians 12:12-30 – Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21.
Dear brothers and sisters, the response to today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 18) is: Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life. Whenever we listen and learn from the word of God, His transforming spirit moves within us at a deep level, and the power in His word is unleashed in us. Today’s reflection is about the transforming power of the word of God. There are moments when we are deeply touched upon hearing the word of God as it is being preached or read to us. Such moments occur when we are fully disposed to receive and assimilate it. This is exactly the situation we find in the 1st reading.
In the 1st reading, the people of Israel longed for a redeemer. They were moved to tears of joy as they listened attentively as the Book of the Law of Moses was read to them by Ezra the priest and scribe. Ezra, assisted by Nehemiah the governor (the ‘Tirshatha’), translated and interpreted the Mosaic Law for the people. Mingling with the people below Ezra’s dais, the Levites were busy helping the crowd to grasp the truths contained in the Sacred Scriptures.
In the Gospel reading, we find the Lord Jesus opening the scroll of Isaiah, and we are presented with the extraordinary situation of God Himself delivering His own word to His own people in Nazareth (here, ‘Nazara’). These were local people who had known Jesus for thirty years, local people who had watched Him grow up, and who knew Him well as a tradesman. They had gathered in the synagogue to worship God on the Sabbath in fulfilment of the Mosaic Law. They had their full attention on Jesus at that moment because, like the people of Ezra’s time, they longed to hear the word of God and to have it interpreted for them. They had no idea that the long-awaited Redeemer was physically present to them, that it was God Himself who was going to interpret it for them.
n the 2nd reading, St Paul compares the Church to the human body, a single unit having a multitude of parts, in the sense that by one Spirit we [are] all baptised into one body (v.13). It is one Spirit, the Holy Spirit, that is given to us all to drink. The Holy Spirit is the power of God at work in the world, and it is He who gives life to the body – the Church – to accomplish a multitude of tasks to bring about the coming of the Kingdom of God.
What do the above points tell us today?
- There is power in the word of God to transform people when the word is received with an open heart.
- The word of God affects us in various ways, including drawing us to contrition and to exultation. Similarly, this is what the word of God worked in the people of Israel, and is doing so in you even as you read or listen now. Be open to the word of God, and give the word permission to enter your mind and heart, soul and spirit.
- The word does not judge us or condemn us, but encourages us to do better. It gives consolation and strength to those who are weary in spirit. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the word of God affords us spiritual and physical healing, vision and freedom from the bondage of sin.
- The word of God draws our attention to the need to share our bread with those who have none.
- The way the word of God touches and moves each one of us is different; but when we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the good of the whole body of Christ – the Church – is served.
- Finally, in today’s Gospel reading, St Luke was writing to Theophilus and telling him about Jesus Christ. Nobody knows if there was an individual called ‘Theophilus’ or who he was; but as the name “Theophilus” means “loved by God”, there’s no doubt that Luke’s Gospel message is meant for you. The message is addressed to you personally as a child of God and as one who is loved by God. How do you feel about being this ‘Theophilus’ – this person whom God loves and to whom He has given this Good News? Never forget that Jesus Christ is the definitive Good News of God to each and every person without exception. We recognise Jesus in the fulfilment of the words of the prophets and the apostles. We believe that redemption has come to us through our Lord Jesus.
I pray that every time you hear the word of God, the Holy Spirit may warm your mind and heart, reminding you of how much God loves you, and of how much you yourself need to turn to God and have remorse for your sins. My ongoing prayer is that you may find real joy in reflecting on God as you read and hear the word of God; and that through the activity of the Holy Spirit as you do so, you may find healing and fulfilment. Amen. God bless you.