Sunday Sermon for January 23, 2022, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Cor 12:12-30; Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

In the second reading today, St. Paul states: “You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.”  This truth is of great importance to all of us, but we need to look at the Gospel reading to see what God teaches us about this truth on an even deeper level.  In the Gospel, Jesus reads from the scroll of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  What is important for our considerations is the line that says: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me…” 

If you are a member of Christ, as St. Paul tells us we are, then the Spirit of the Lord is upon you as well.  In the Gospel, Jesus simply reads what the Prophet Isaiah says regarding bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, proclaiming recovery of sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and a year of favor from the Lord.  St. Paul expands on this as he explains that within the Body of Christ there are a variety of gifts and that God has given specific gifts to each individual for the building up of the Body.  We need not go into St. Paul’s list of gifts because it is not exhaustive. 

Think of the dignity that is yours!  Allow the truth of how much God loves you to sink in!  He loves you so much that He made you a member of His own Son!  He made you His own son or daughter!  He sent the Holy Spirit to fill you as He filled Jesus in order to form us more and more into the image and likeness of our Lord!  He has raised you from having the dignity of being made in God’s image and likeness, as every human person is, to partaking of the divine nature! 

So often we doubt God’s love for us because He allows bad things to happen in our lives.  Some people are so burdened that it almost seems like God is picking on them.  It is easy, in such cases, to think God does not care, that He does not love us or want what is best for us.  Then we are reminded of our dignity by readings like those we have today.  We are reminded that God allowed very bad things to happen to His own Son and, if we are going to be conformed to Christ, we too must carry our cross and be crucified with Him.

We have all heard these truths many times in our lives.  For this reason, I am hoping we can each step back and hear these truths as though we were hearing them for the first time.  Set aside what you know for a moment and listen to St. Paul tell you that you are a member of the Body of Christ.  Listen to our Lord tell us that the Spirit of God is upon us.  Think about the ramifications of these truths.

When the people of Israel returned from their exile, they found the scrolls of the Book of Deuteronomy buried in the Temple.  Someone had buried them for safekeeping before the exile and the destruction of the Temple.  During the time of exile, the people did not have these scrolls, so the event we read about in the first reading describes the first time most of the people heard the words of this inspired Book.

The people wept as they listened to the Word of God.  They understood how this applied to them and it touched them deeply.  They heard about the punishments that would come upon those who disobey God’s Law, the punishments they had been living for most, or all, of their lives.  However, they also heard about the mercy of God and the blessings He would bestow upon those who love Him and keep His Law.  Undoubtably, some of the tears were tears of sadness as they heard of the punishments.  But equally certain is that some of the tears were tears of joy as they listened for the first time to the Word of God.

We are told that the priests and the Levites went among the people instructing them that that day was holy to the Lord and that the people should not be sad and should not weep.  If we heard the Gospel for the first time and listened to the account of the Passion of our Lord, we might be weeping with sorrow, but when we read about God’s love for us and the dignity He has bestowed upon us as His sons and daughters endowed with the Holy Spirit, we might be weeping for joy.  Either way, receive the truth and rejoice, because you are holy to the Lord and rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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