3rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-C- January 27, 2019
Nehemiah 8: 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19; 1 Cor 12: 12-30; Luke 1: 1-4, 4: 14-21
by Jude Siciliano, OP
In Advent we began a new liturgical year with a focus on Luke’s gospel. There have been enough exceptions since then to distract us. But today, you will have noticed, we are beginning our "year of Luke" in earnest. From now till the end of this liturgical year we will move through Luke in a more-or-less sequential fashion. So, today’s gospel reading starts with the prologue and an account of Jesus’ first preaching. We are at the beginning of his public ministry and, in a way, ours as well.
I have to confess my first thought on seeing today’s gospel – "here we go again." I have been though this cycle before – many times before. As a preacher and worshiper I wonder, "What new message and insights can I possibly gain from this gospel? What new ways can my heart, mind and spirit be moved by this all-too familiar account? From a preacher’s perspective I wonder if I can find a fresh approach and, yes, enthusiasm to do this cycle again? Anyone else feel the way I do?
Maybe Luke thinks his readers are in a similar frame of mind. There have been, he says to Theophilus, many who have attempted "to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us." But, he says, he has decided to write this "orderly sequence" so that Theophilus "...may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received." Was Luke’s community also too familiar with the story of Jesus? Did the story lack freshness and was it just part of their religious wallpaper – there – but taken for granted in the daily rush of life?
At the beginning of Luke we are like people setting out on a journey that will take us to different places and introduce us to a variety of people. Many we meet will be needy and searching; others will be friendly and help us on our way; while still others, will be hostile and try to toss doubts and objections along our path. We will change as we travel through Luke’s gospel. The narratives will nurture us and address issues that have arisen in the world and our personal lives since we last heard these passages in our assembly three years ago. Even if our lives seem to be pretty much the same, in truth, nothing is as it was early in 2016.
But the Word of God is not stagnant. It isn’t an old story for and about days long gone. The grammar of the gospel may sound "past tense," but it is very much "present tense." At least it can be present tense for faithful eyes and ears. So, if the liturgical year starts on a note of "deja vu, all over again" (to borrow Yogi Berra’s phrase), then we may need a blessing before we start out on our journey. Actually, our travels through Luke and this year’s liturgical celebrations, are less tourist adventures and more pilgrimage. We are traveling to a holy place with rest and prayer stops along the way. And, just as the pilgrims of old, we travel together.
We pilgrims begin our travels invoking a blessing – for a breath of new life and a yearning for renewed enthusiasm, joy and celebration in our faith walk. We invoke the Spirit in a special way as we read about the preacher Jesus’ proclamation that, "the Spirit of the Lord is upon me...." As we prepare for this cycle of preaching, we ask that the Spirit set a fire that reignites our preaching gifts and enthusiasm for the Word. O Holy Spirit, help us feel the fire of the Word in our belly and the passion to proclaim it in our hearts, "in season and out of season."
What we say about preachers applies to all the baptized. All are called by our baptism to proclaim "glad tidings" by our words and actions. This gospel, after all, is not only for preachers, but for all who have entered the waters and been united with Christ in his life, death and resurrection. A faithful hearing of Luke’s gospel will reinforce our call as we again receive the mandate to proclaim the reign of God that Jesus will give later in the gospel to the seventy two (10:9).
Today’s passage shows what is true in all of Luke: Jesus’s ministry is under the movement and activity of the Holy Spirit. We heard John the Baptist say that the one who was to come would baptize with the Spirit. The work of that Spirit, Jesus makes plain today, is that of freedom from sin and all forms of imprisonment. Jesus preaches using images drawn from familiar Jewish jubilee themes. What the poor, imprisoned and oppressed have yearned for, has become a reality in Jesus, "a year acceptable to the Lord," a jubilee, has been proclaimed. What was a hope in the hearts of the Jewish people has become a reality in Christ. Emptiness has been fulfilled. As we hear the text we take its present-tense timing to heart. It is meant for us – now. In his "inaugural speech" Jesus is not saying that someday in the future the forgotten of the world will be recognized and their needs addressed. Rather, he says, these needs are presently being addressed. Jesus is speaking of both physical and spiritual release as he announces a "year acceptable to the Lord." The jubilee imagery is drawn from Leviticus (25: 8-55) and no Jew would miss the implications.
At times we can over-spiritualize the scriptures. What the people anticipated when a jubilee year was proclaimed, was a release from whatever oppressed a person or community – be it spiritual, or material enslavement. Jesus declares total release. He is speaking of actions that have begun to take place with his arrival and Luke is inviting his community to notice a similar release and freedom happening in the church of his time. Luke is pointing to such liberating acts and in telling this account hoping to encourage his community’s participation in actions that free people from whatever enslaves, or weighs them down. What Jesus announced as arriving with his ministry, is supposed to be happening in our time as well. A new president of the U.S. gives an inaugural speech which outlines what are supposed to be the policies and actions during the president’s administration. Jesus’ inaugural speech announces not only what will happen during his "term of office," but what will characterize the lives of his followers as well.
As we go through this year with Luke we will see concrete signs of what Jesus announced in the Nazareth synagogue that day – the poor have glad tidings announced and enacted in their midst. We preachers and worshipers gather and we pray for the Spirit to loosen our tongues and enliven our hearts so that we preach and live what we hear today and throughout the days of the "year of Luke."
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye.
Psalm 19: 9
As we come to the close of our first month of the New Year, how are you coming along with all your resolutions? It is hard to stay on course even with the best of intentions; sometimes life interrupts. That is why it is necessary to give yourself time to reflect.
We are concluding Poverty Awareness Month. The USCCB prepared daily reflections on poverty at:http://www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/poverty-education/poverty-awareness-month.cfm. I would offer a suggestion that you use these throughout the year and make poverty awareness more important in your lives, as Jesus did.
We also conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, inspired by Deuteronomy 16:20 "Justice, Only Justice, You Shall Pursue." The USCCB Poverty Awareness reflection for today captures the spirit of this theme with quotes from two church documents. "Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. . . ‘The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by love for mankind, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might’ ["Libertatis Nuntius"]. In this context we can understand Jesus’ command to his disciples: "You yourselves give them something to eat! [Mk 6:37]; it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter" ("Evangelii Gaudium" nos. 187-188). The command of the Lord is clear.
The reflection concludes with this challenge: "How are you opening your heart to hear ‘the cry for justice’? Use the Newspaper Prayer to open your heart to hear this cry and discern how you can respond to the needs of those in your community and in the world."
Look through a print or online newspaper to find a news article about an issue that affects your community or the world. Cut out (or print out) the article and bring it with you to a quiet place where you can pray. Think about how human dignity is affected by the issue or situation. Pray for God’s healing and transformation for all people impacted, lawmakers, and others. Ask God how he is asking you to respond to this issue (www.wearesaltandlight.org)
Let us make 2019 a more just year.
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me....
God has sent me to proclaim....
a year acceptable to the Lord.
Jesus tells his hearers, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Luke is reminding us we don't have to wait for some future time and place for God to come to set us free, it is happening "Today." The One anointed with the Spirit enables us now to be in right relationship with God and one another.
So we ask ourselves:
WRITING TO DEATH ROW INMATES
It is still not too late to make a new year’s resolution you can keep. Why not consider a monthly note to an inmate on death row? These inmates are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I am posting in this space several inmates’ names and locations. I invite you to "adopt" one of them as a pen pal. This Christian work can be a powerful experience If you like, tell your new friend you got his name from North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." Thanks, Jude Siciliano, OP
Please write to:
----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:http://www.pfadp.org/
"First Impressions"is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at email@example.com.
If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, TX 75062-4736
Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation:http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm
1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:
If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.
You can order the CDs by going to our webpage:www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.
2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. atJboll@opsouth.org.
3. Our webpage: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.
4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.
Thank you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736