Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 27, 2013
Nehemiah 8:2-10; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Jesus imitates the good example of Ezra the priest who calls together the community to pronounce the law. Luke follows the pattern of Nehemiah who is the featured monarch of the first reading. Ezra is the priest scribe and Nehemiah his king; Luke puts himself on the same level as Ezra as author of the new law with Jesus as his Lord and King. Ezra makes sure that the gathered men, women, and children can understand. He even shows them the scroll so they can plainly know what he is reading. Luke’s introduction is similar. Luke, like Ezra, makes certain his audience can understand what is being said. He addresses Theophilus, an idealized person – a lover of God, whom he knows will realize the certainty of the teachings he has received. Luke testifies that what he has written has been recorded accurately from first-hand eyewitnesses and from ministers of the word who responsibly handed down the account to him. Luke goes a bit further by investigating everything anew. He can verify its authenticity through his scholarly ways.

When Ezra finishes reading the book of the law, he and Nehemiah proclaim, “Today is holy to the Lord: Go, eat rich food and drink sweet drinks; rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.” The crowds assemble around Jesus just as they did Ezra. Jesus proclaims words with similar sentiment to Ezra, but with greater far-reaching implications. Jesus is both lawgiver and prophet and he speaks authoritatively for God. His message proclaims this day as a holy one, just like Ezra, but he is the one chosen to inaugurate this new time of God’s enduring presence. He is the anointed one to proclaim to the poor good tidings, to the captives liberty, to the blind recovery of sight, and to the enslaved freedom. With finality, Jesus rolls us the scroll and declares scripture to be fulfilled in its hearing.

We fail to grasp the enormity of the statement Jesus makes in his action. He knows that the Holy City of Jerusalem is just a few miles south of Nazareth – the center of the Jewish world, the city of Jewish dreams. Jerusalem is a city of power and authority – a showcase of God’s might. If you travel to the Holy City today, you will find poised men walking around with magnificent hats, phylacteries, and tassels – showing off their stature, wealth, and righteousness. People follow the law and have great reverence for customs and traditions. This is the place to see and be seen, especially on the Sabbath. Anyone of any worth comes to Jerusalem to worship at the walls of the Old Temple.

In all its ancient glory, Jesus knows the importance of the Temple and its attending priests. In light of all this, he makes his radical statement: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me. Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The actions of Jesus are provocative as he is claiming ordination from the Spirit that separates him from the Temple authorities. His God-among-us theology is certain to clash bitterly with the Temple-centered theology one day. He actively rejects the status-quo customs that have consoled Jews so well for centuries. He will reveal nothing new in scripture, but he will tell the authorities that they misplaced their emphasis. The changes in religious practices that Jesus reveals to them are certain to be rejected. No one likes change – even if it is good for everyone.

While Ezra expounds the law, Jesus gives the spirit. After Ezra speaks, he supports the people asking them not to be sad or to weep. We do not know the reason for their weeping. After Jesus speaks, everyone sits in stunned silence. They know something great is happening before them. His message is going to heal humanity and bring them good news. Deep in their hearts, they know God’s true message is communicated through Jesus to them. The message is: God yearns for you. God wants a world redeemed and reconciled to him. God wants the sorrows and suffering of people to be lifted. God wants mercy granted to every contrite heart and that all people find the absolute amount of goodness in their neighbor and adversary. Power, customs, and law-clinging traditions have no place in God’s kingdom unless they continue to mediate mercy to one’s neighbor.

In our prayer this day, let us intently focus our eyes upon Jesus just as his congregation did all those years ago. They were stunned at his radical message and the hope that his good news brings. In our imagination, let us look at his facial expressions and hear his tone of voice. Let us notice his body language and feel the tension in the air. Let us watch the astounded faces of the people who were absorbed by his words. These little details matter very much.

We take our image of Jesus for granted. We hear Scripture recited week after week, year after year, losing its full effect and sharpness. We need to remain open to growth in order that we can hear Jesus anew. He can refresh our stale image of him and we can learn more about him in a personal way. We need to always let Jesus reveal a little more about himself. His words still can shake us up if we realize they are meant personally for us – to let us know what he proposes is radical – so that we do not make our customs and traditions into laws to which we hold tightly. Let his words this week penetrate into your consciousness as you examine areas of your life that need to change because of his central sweeping message. Love of God and love of neighbor are the laws Jesus want us to cherish.
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Hebrews, Christ is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. Since the law only has a shadow of the good things to come, it can never make perfect those who come to worship by the same sacrifices they offer continually each year. The willful offering of the Body of Jesus once for all makes the sacrifices perfect. Every priest stands daily at his ministry offering sacrifices that can never take away sins. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there no longer is offering for sin. Let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust the sanctuary of the living way God opened for us. Remember the days of old when you went through hardships and everything came out all right. Do not throw away your confidence. It will have a great reward. Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Abraham is pointed to as a model of faith. He obeyed God by moving out of his home and he was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac in response to God’s test.

Gospel: Jesus is beset by his adversaries who claim that his miraculous power comes from Satan. Jesus reminds them that their logic is faulty: Satan cannot give him power to do good if Satan is set on destroying the good. Hitting close to home, the family of Jesus comes out to collect him because he is embarrassing them with his strange speeches. He then tells them a parable about the sower and the seed. Jesus is strengthening his disciples for the times they will be persecuted. There is nothing that is hidden that will not be made visible. The moral behavior of his disciples must reflect the belief in the goodness of Jesus that shines as an example to all. Jesus points to the mystery of the kingdom of heaven that is realized when the planted seed would sprout and grow and the farmer does not know how it is done. Jesus crosses the sea by boat when a fierce storm picks up. Jesus remains asleep until the disciples wake him. He orders the wind to quiet down and it does. His disciples are filled with awe. They marvel at his power over the wind and sea.

Saints of the Week

January 27: Angela Merici (1474-1540), was the founder of the Ursuline nuns. Relatives raised her when her parents died when she was 10. As an adult, she tended to the needs of the poor and with some friends, she taught young girls at their home. These friends joined an association that later became a religious order. Ursula was the patron of medieval universities.

January 28: Thomas Aquinas, priest and Doctor (1225-1274), studied in a Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino as a boy. He joined the newly formed Dominicans where he studied in France and Italy. He is a giant scholar. He wrote much on Scripture and theology, including his summation of theology (Summa Theologiae). He wrote several songs for liturgy, such as the Tantum Ergo, Pange Lingua, and Adoro Te Devote.

January 31: John Bosco, priest (1815-1888), formed his Society to aid children who were imprisoned. He used Francis de Sales as his inspiration. He taught poor and working class boys in the evenings wherever it was possible to meet them - in fields, factories, or homes. A sister community was set up to assist young girls who were sent to work.

February 2: The Presentation of the Lord is the rite by which the firstborn male is presented in the Temple as an offering to God. It occurs 40 days after the birth while the new mother is considered ritually unclean. Two church elders, Simeon and Anna, who represent the old covenant, praise Jesus and warn his mother that her heart will be pierced as her son will bring the salvation of many.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jan 27, 1870. The Austrian government endeavored to suppress the annual grant of 8,000 florins to the theological faculty of Innsbruck and to drive the Jesuit professors from the university, because of their support of the Papal Syllabus.
·      Jan 28, 1853. Fr. General John Roothaan, wishing to resign his office, summoned a General Congregation, but died on May 8, before it assembled.
·      Jan 29, 1923. Woodstock scholastics kept a fire vigil for several months to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from setting the college on fire.
·      Jan 30, 1633. At Avignon, Fr. John Pujol, a famous master of novices, died. He ordered one of them to water a dry stick, which miraculously sprouted.
·      Jan 31, 1774. Fr. General Laurence Ricci, a prisoner in Castel S Angelo, claimed his liberty, since his innocence had been fully vindicated. He received from the Papal Congregation the reply that they would think about it. Pope Clement XIV was said at this time to be mentally afflicted.
·      Feb 1, 1549. The first Jesuit missionaries to go to Brazil set sail from Lisbon, Portugal, under Fr. Emmanuel de Nobrega.
·      Feb 2, 1528. Ignatius arrived in Paris to begin his program of studies at the University of Paris.