3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The man was more perplexed than disappointed. He asked, “Why the hell do you have to watch the gate if there is no one in it?”
“This place,” replied Peter calmly, “is for those who hear the word of God and live it.”
Churches and denominations are not the criteria for entering the kingdom of God. They are good means, but not the end in itself. This week we celebrate the week of Christian Unity. We are trying ways and means to bring unity because the Church is very much divided. This problem exists from the beginning of the Church. St. Paul was grieved to hear about divisions and schisms in the Corinthian community. He shunned such divisive forces, for division only weakens the community. He asked the Corinthians, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
The problems are not less today. However, differences do not necessarily mean division. We need to work hard and pray more that there will be unity and understanding. For, all profess one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one Lord and Father of all.
LISTEN TO THE WORD
In today’s celebration of the Mass we come across two liturgical assemblies; the first one of the Old Testament (Nehe. 8:1-4, 5-6, 8-10) and the second one of the New Testament. In the first one the priest and scribe Ezra reads the book of law, the Torah (first five books of the Bible) in the presence of the governor Nehemiah, to a large gathering of people. Ezra was an important figure in the Jewish community after its return from exile in Babylon. His reading of the Torah is the process of establishing their religious worship. When they had neglected the law, abandoned God’s ways, they were led to exile. Now again they are eager to listen to the word of God. Ezra read from the book early morning to midday in the presence of men, women and children. (And you thought Sunday Mass, one hour, is too long!) People understood the reading and responded saying, “Amen, Amen,” and bowing their head worshiped the Lord. They were emotionally and spiritually moved and began to cry. Ezra encourages and strengthens them saying, “do not be saddened this day, rejoice in the Lord. For the Lord has shown mercy to us.” The Word has power to move people and touch their lives deeply.
In the gospel Jesus proclaims the word of God in the synagogue service. Just as Ezra’s proclamation of the law was well accepted by the people, Jesus’ audience listened to him with rapt attention. Jesus announces that the words of the Prophet were being fulfilled as he proclaimed them in the synagogue. In the case of Ezra’s assembly, they were starting over again what they forfeited. Jesus is starting anew. He does more than just proclaim the word. He applies it to his own life. It is to become his manifesto, his mission statement, his program of life. Later on, when John the Baptist, sends his disciples to find out whether Jesus is in fact the Messiah, Jesus replies: “go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, lame walk, lepers are cleaned, the deaf hear…” (Lk. 7:22) In other words Jesus is fulfilling the words of Isaiah that he proclaimed at the beginning of his ministry. Listen to him and follow him.