24 January 2016: Third Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15 1 Cor 12:12-30 Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21


The scripture in our ears

During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. Over the next few Sundays, we will follow Jesus as he begins his ministry and calls his disciples. The readings challenge RCIA participants to change and to discipleship. This week’s readings connect scripture in Nehemiah with Jesus’ scripture fulfillment.

The first reading is from Nehemiah, a post-exile governor of Judah. Scripture scholars believe an unknown author composed this book in the late fifth or early fourth century BC. This reading dramatically portrays the priest Ezra standing amid Jerusalem’s ruins and interpreting the Law to the assembled Hebrew people. Ezra’s public reading urges his hearers to their mission: to rebuild Jerusalem(“rejoicing in the Lord is your strength”). The Lectionary editors chose this reading to complement Jesus’ reading in the Nazareth synagogue.

The second reading, from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, continues from last week. Paul writes to the Corinth ekklesia because its membership is divided over the Spirit’s gifts. Paul compares the believing community to a human body: a body has many different parts that work together to make a functioning human person. Eyes aren’t better than feet; without ears we couldn’t hear. Paul then jumps from simile (“the ekklesia is like a body”) to theology (“you are Christ’s body”). We individual ekklesia members are now Christ’s body–his presence–in the world. Each member has a specific role to play or a gift to use in building up this mystical body.

Luke’s gospel has two parts:

  • The mission of the gospel: Luke tells Theophilus (Greek for “one who loves God”–that’s us) that he has written an “orderly account” so that we “might be certain of the teachings [we] have received.” Luke uses the Greek word κατηχέω (kah-tay-KEH-oh) to describe these “teachings.” κατηχέω means literally “to sound or to echo down into the ears.” From this Greek word we get the English word catechesis. Luke writes his gospel to instruct disciples in Jesus’ “fulfillment” of scripture, as told by the apostles (“eyewitnesses”) and other evangelists (“ministers of the word.”)
  • The mission of Jesus: Luke chooses Jesus’ hometown as the place where Jesus announces his mission. Fresh from his baptism (“in the power of the Spirit”), Jesus follows his habit of going to synagogue. Maybe because Jesus is becoming famous (“praised by all”), the attendant asks him to read and comment on the lesson. Jesus chooses the Isaiah scroll that foretell him: the Spirit anoints him to preach, to heal, and to free the oppressed. Jesus, like Ezra in the first reading, then interprets what he has read: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your ears.”

The readings remind RCIA participants and the entire believing community that we encounter God in scripture and liturgy. Ezra proclaims and interprets the Torah for the returned exiles so they can rebuild their lives. Paul shows the Corinthians that their assembled community is Christ’s body. Luke writes his gospel to instruct disciples. Jesus announces his messianic mission in the context of a synagogue service.Are we listening in the liturgy? Do we hear the mission to which God is calling us?

—Terence Sherlock



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