– 23rd January 2022 –
Sunday of the Word of God
Gospel reading: Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
vs.1 Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us,
vs.2 exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word
vs.3 I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an account for you, Theophilus,
vs.4 so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.
vs.14 Jesus, with the power of the spirit in him, returned to Galilee, and his reputation spread throughout the countryside.
vs.15 He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.
vs.16 He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read,
vs.17 and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:
vs.18 “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
vs.19 to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”
vs.20He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.
vs.21Then he began to speak to them,
“This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”
We have four commentators available from whom you may wish to choose .
Michel DeVerteuil : A Holy Ghost Priest, formar director of the Centre of Biblical renewal, Trinidad .W.I.
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Norhampton.
Sean Goan: Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago, teaches at Blackrock College and works with Le Chéile Schools.
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger and National Director of The Apostlship of Prayer.
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels Year C
The reflection below is on the second part of the reading – verses 16 to 21 –a story of how Jesus read the Bible and how he wants us his followers to read it (and teach it).
Verses 16-17 and 20-21 explain the method;
verses 18 and 19 give the text Jesus read.
As regards the method, we are free to interpret the passage as what happens to the church as a whole or to individual members. The biblical renewal of recent years was a matter of the whole church being handed the Bible (by an assistant) and invited to recognise it being fulfilled today.
We can also interpret the passage as reminding us of what happens when individuals get down to personal Bible meditation. In this case the passage is a living lesson on the lectio divina method.
If we go as far as drawing wisdom conclusions, we will learn something about how Bible teachers can guide people into experiencing what Jesus did – that their experience is not unique and therefore alienating, but the Bible is fulfilled in them. Good Bible teachers teach people how to recognise in their “today” experience that they are in communion with their ancestors and with all God’s people.
We can interpret “the Bible text” as referring not merely to the Bible but to any ancestral text. The passage then becomes a teaching on good missionary method – the task of the missionary is to “hand” ancestral texts to the people they are sent to, invite them to recognise that they are being “fulfilled” in the church.
The passage also links the method with the content of the Isaiah text. It tells us (as always by appealing to our experience) that Bible reading correctly understood and practiced is an experience of liberation for those who are in any form of captivity – cultural, spiritual or psychological.
We must look for experiences which bring this out. In what way has the biblical renewal been an experience of liberation?
For the church as a whole?
For individuals? It has certainly been liberation from bondage to elitist, colonialist, racist and sexist thinking.
To what extent has my Bible reading been a liberating experience for me, or for my community? If it has been, then who is the Bible teacher, spiritual guide, community leader, friend that we want to celebrate?
Scriptural Prayer Reflection
“Such is the force and power of the Word that it is the church’s support and strength, imparting robustness to the faith of its daughters and sons and providing food for their souls, a pure and unfailing fount of spiritual life.” …Vatican II, Dei Verbum
Lord, we thank you for the biblical renewal,
your precious gift to the church in our time.
– Other Christian Churches initiated this great movement of the Spirit;
– it was recognised and welcomed by great popes like Leo XIII and Pius XII,
– and was given further impetus by the Second Vatican Council
with this wonderful document on ‘Divine Revelation.‘
We pray that a love for your Holy Scripture may continue to grow in your church,
with the Liturgy of the Word as its source and summit,
so that the story of Jesus when he first returned to Nazareth
may be relived each week in church communities all over the world,
wherever your people assemble on the sabbath as they usually do,
in their places of worship – great cathedrals, parish churches
and chapels of religious houses, classrooms, community centers and homes, or in the open air.
We pray that when celebrants stand up to read
and the book of readings is handed to them
they will open it with the utmost reverence
and accept with humble gratitude whatever text they find written there,
read it clearly and deliberately,
conscious that your Spirit is being given to them and they are being anointed
to transform this ancient writing into good news to the poor,
liberty to captives and new sight to the blind,
to recognise that our modern age, for all its shortcomings, is a time of your favour.
When they have read the word, may they maintain their reverence
as they close the book and hand it back to the assistant,
spend some moments in deep meditation,
aware that the eyes of all are fixed on them, hungering and thirsting for a word of life,
and when eventually the time comes for them to begin to speak
may the present the Bible text not as an abstract message,
a story about the past to be remembered with nostalgia,
an impossible utopia that can only be dreamed of,
but being fulfilled among them even as they are listening.
Within the reality of their daily lives, their pains and their joys,
they will see your glorious story of grace triumphing over sin.
Lord, we pray that our church may help men and women of every culture
To unroll the sacred scrolls of their tradition,
Read attentively and reverently what they find written there,
Sit down and meditate deeply on it
And recognise that this text is being fulfilled among them as they listen.
Lord, our Western education system sometimes contradicts the word of your prophets
– brings bad news to the poor telling them that they deserve what they get.
– plunges captives into deeper captivity,
– keeps people blind so that they cannot see the opportunities for grace in their situations,
– encourages the downtrodden to be resigned to their fate.
We pray that, like Jesus returning to the place where he was brought up and discovering his calling, so we your church may return to our beginnings,
receive the Spirit you have sent us,
and the anointing with which we have been anointed,
and the oppressed people of our time will hear us proclaim the good news that they are born to be free and a new year of favour will begin for them.
“My cell will be not one of stone or of wood, but of self-knowledge.” …St Catherine of Siena
Lord, when we find that our reputation has spread throughout the countryside,
do not let us becomes pretentious or lose the sense of who we really are.
Give us the grace to follow in the footsteps of Jesus when he came to Nazara where he had been brought up
so that we too will discover the truth of ourselves fulfilled in the texts of Scripture.
“In your book all human beings are written.” … Bruno of Seguin, medieval monk and bishop.
Lord, one of the great sufferings of people nowadays is a sense of isolation,
the feeling that we are the first generation to experience our problems;
and one of the great ways we follow in the footsteps of Jesus
is to help one another recognise that the ancient scriptures are fulfilled in us.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew
Introduction to the Celebration
We are gathered here in the name of Jesus the Lord; he is present among us in the midst of our gathering.
We are his people, his body in this world, and we have heard his gospel: good news for the poor, sight for the blind, liberty for all who are enslaved. Let us recall why we follow him and ask pardon for those times when we have not brought joy or enlightenment or peace to our world.
1. The sermon/homily/address is very often the least popular part of the liturgy. There are many reasons for this especially when preaching takes place in the context of the Eucharist “here time is limited and one does not have a pre-selected audience with a particular interest in what might be said on the occasion. However it is also the case that many people have never even thought about why there is a sermon at all. So why do we preach? The answer requires some preaching about preaching.
2. The starting point is to look at both the principal readings today: in each of them an earlier text is read,, and then it is converted into a message that makes it something living for all who are there listening. The act of preaching is this act of converting, of translating, of making sense of text in our immediate situation as believers.
3. So we have to ask by what criteria do our audience judge our performance of this task that was
once carried out by the prophet Ezra,
then by Jesus in Nazareth, and
now by ministers across the world? Is it that the sermon is easy to understand? Is it that it is amusing? Is it that it is challenging? Is it that it addressed ‘questions of the day? Is it that it is persuasive? Or is it simply that it is short and not too boring? All of these are used, but they are all limited.
4. Some people can explain difficult matters simply, but the issues of faith are not simple because life is not simple. Simple messages, easily appropriated are usually the work of those who want to bluff us. Propaganda is always simple. An ability to amuse is a gift, but reflection on the meaning of faith in our moment in history is not usually the stuff of entertainment. The sermon itself is not where any challenge to someone should appear: the gospel challenges the sin of the world of sin and the homily is there to help the individual to see any challenge that it might pose to them as individuals or as members of groups. The sermon is exposition rather than a tongue-lashing. There are always questions of the day and urgent’ issues towards which Christians should be directing attention, but at the Sunday Eucharist the normal course of events In that we hear the gospels in sequences and then see what each passage has to say to us. Lastly, persuasion may be the result of the preacher’s work – some people have the gift of being persuasive without looking like salesmen – but if someone is persuaded it is because they have been helped to see what i sthe Word of God by the preacher, then her or his faith has given them the acceptance of that truth, and God’s help has enabled them to bring it to fruitfulness in their lives.
5. Here is an example: Jesus says that the acceptable year of the Lord has now come. What does this mean? It means that Jesus says that the time for the renewal of the creation is at hand as in one of the special Jubilee Years that were held every fifty years. Acceptable Year: The year we are made free.
On those occasions there was to be a rebalancing of wealth and resources between the rich and the poor, and a re-creation of a just society. This is the gospel message: the Father is not happy with any situation where his gifts given to all are so tied up with one group in his creation that others are suffering and downtrodden. Whether you see this as the truth or not is now a matter for faith: down the centuries there have been Christians who have worked with the poor and who have sought the just distribution of wealth. Others have rejected this and seen it as Christianity nosing into politics. However, it is a matter of whether one believes Jesus is the Son of God or not. And, if one does, then his message is the Word of Life, and one has to ask for the strength to do something about it. However, it is not the sermon that persuades: the sermon has done its job when it points out the significance of the gospel and notes that the situation is still the same: if Jesus enters our community, then It includes interest in poverty, injustice, and hunger for these do not come from the Father, but from us.
Let the reader understand
This Sunday we return to Luke and two extracts from his gospel that are put side by side for a reason. First we read the opening four verses, important because they tell us exactly why Luke undertook this task. He wanted Theophilus and other Gentile (non-Jewish) converts to understand that the message they have come to believe is well founded and truly reflects the message of Jesus. The second passage then brings us to the start of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee when Jesus continues the age old practice of reading from the scriptures. The text is from Isaiah and speaks of the liberating work of God’s anointed one. What is striking is Jesus’ claim that at last this exciting promise of salvation and freedom from oppression is being fulfilled right now in his own life and work.
Since the Second Vatican Council much attention has been given to the role of the laity and the recognition of a variety of gifts in the life of the church. What Paul wrote to the Corinthians has played an important part in developing our understanding of our Christian calling and the fact that ‘One Spirit has been given to us all to drink.’ However the Old Testament also points the way towards such an understanding. In the first reading today prominence is given to Nehemiah who was neither a prophet nor a priest but who played a hugely influential role in forming the identity of the Jewish people in the period after their exile. A disgruntled observer once remarked that the role of the laity was to pray up,, pay up and shut up. It would a terrible sin against the Body of Christ if we were to give in to such thinking. The scriptures that are so central to our worship every Sunday certainly give the lie to that message.
Donal Neary SJ
Gospel Reflections Year C
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Faith beyond words
Jesus’ religious beliefs grew on the word of God. Through boyhood and family life, visits to the synagogue and prayer, he heard the word of God. Gradually he knew what it meant. Now was his time to speak that word, and to begin his ministry.
For Mary and Joseph this was a proud moment. They had given their time and love to Jesus’ upbringing and now it would bear fruit. Today parents worry about the faith of their children. They see a different attitude to religion, prayer, morality and many other aspects of life. They wonder did they do their job well.
Much of the culture today goes against God and religion. Parents cannot fight the culture. But they can hand on the best of the gospel by their own faith and by the way they live their lives, by their love and by speaking the truth as they see it. What is handed on in faith is beyond words.
Teachers and chaplains play a big role in handing on our faith. The Church owes a huge gratitude to teachers, chaplains, priest and lay, who have held that role in very difficult times over the last forty years.
We are all part of the ‘faith ministry’ of Jesus. By our own prayer we can help a new generation find their way to faith. We hand over worries to the Lord. Prayer gives us the encouragement to support a younger generation in their ways of faith – meditation groups, prayer groups, folk and gospel music Masses, work for and among the poor. God loves our younger generation more than we do!
Lord may my own faith grow deeper by my relationship with you.Help those who search for you, especially the young.
Help us all to find your love in our lives, Amen.