Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 23
May We Open Our Eyes So That We May See the Value of Each Day, and May We Open Our Hearts So That We May Give Our Best to Each Person and Each Task, in Accordance with the Gifts Which God Has Entrusted to Each of Us.
We read in today’s Gospel, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor…” And then Jesus said to all in the synagogue, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
One of the typical scenes of anyone desiring to enter public or political life is the announcement of his or her candidacy in running for some position of importance. The candidate goes to his or her hometown and stands on the porch of the house where he or she grew up – or else some other location in the town to emphasize a connection with the people of the area, and to suggest that he or she is just an ordinary citizen with “hometown” values!
The idea is to generate enthusiasm and votes, but great expectations are created as well – hope for a positive change, expectation of a betterment in one’s quality of life, optimism that sound values are promoted and respect for the dignity of each human individual is embraced.
A similar type of scene may occur at the grand opening of a large factory or a shopping center – “ribbon-cutting” events designed to create hope for prosperity within the community.
If someone – who never heard of the name Jesus Christ before, or knew what Christianity was all about – listened to our Gospel today for the first time, he would think Jesus was running for office – but He is not!
In a way, Jesus is laying out His platform after having been elected – in other words, after having been anointed by the Holy Spirit. He is telling all who are listening that this is how He intends to live out His calling.
In essence, Jesus is inaugurating not only His public ministry, but also a new age! The gathering of people in the synagogue is made aware of the first, but not the last. They are startled to hear Him read from one of the great prophets of their tradition and then, of all things, announce that He is the living fulfillment of that prophecy!
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor…Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
It would be hard for anyone to be more dramatic! The response is mixed. Some marvel at how good a speaker He is! Some wonder how the son of a carpenter could have received such an education.
Others have heard that this Jesus with whom they are familiar, someone they had seen grow up in their own neighborhood, the son of Joseph and Mary, had performed a miracle in Cana and some healings in Capernaum, and they want some of that to be done in Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown.
In the verses that follow, which we do not read today, Jesus confronts them with their skepticism and ambitions, which serves to only infuriate them.
And this is where we need to stop the story and start asking ourselves some questions. When you and I hear Jesus speak to us in the Scriptures, how do we react? Do we only listen to and accept those statements which Jesus says that are appealing to us, teachings which are easy for us to embrace and do not cause us hardship or to change our lifestyle or personal behavior?
Do we pick and choose only what we want to believe, as so many people are inclined to do? Do our ambitions only serve to feed our skepticism and our lack of faith in those statements which are less appealing?
Or do we listen to all that the Bible teaches us, as did the Jewish community when the priest-scribe Ezra, as our First Reading tells us today, “…brought the law before the assembly…he read out of the book from daybreak till midday…and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law… and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, ‘Amen, amen!’ Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD, their faces to the ground.”
In our hearts, as people of faith, do you and I prostrate ourselves before the Magnificence of God’s Glory? Do we surrender our ego, our sense of pride and ambition – so that we are able to embrace all that our faith teaches us – especially when it come to the humble charity of selfless love, the holiness of chastity, the sanctity of life and the sacredness of marriage as God intended it?
Even the concept of forgiveness and loving one’s enemy is so difficult for some people, especially if they have been on the receiving end of someone else’s acts of unkindness or cruelty.
As for carrying our cross as our Lord did, well…how many times do we complain about some discomfort or physical inconvenience, and we end up asking God to take it away? In short, what does an announcement some two thousand years ago in a small town synagogue have to do with our Christianity today, this faith which you and I hold so dear to our hearts?
What is in it for us? In a word – EVERYTHING!
If Jesus is not the embodiment of God’s promise to the world, our faith is in vain! If His teaching is nothing more than the stuff we can find in all those “self-help” books at a bookstore, why bother listening? After all these centuries of Christian tradition, is our response any better than those folks in Nazareth, many whose hearts were filled with skepticism?
I believe that, for those of us who are reading this meditation today, our answer is a resounding “YES”! Our response is better, because our hearts are open – open to His Truth, open to His Love!
It is in this openness through which you and I, through the grace and invitation of the Holy Spirit, are able to develop a relationship of love with the God who is our Creator, who has made each of us into the image of Himself.
It is in this openness through which you and I are able to develop a relationship of love with the God who walked amongst us and freely died for us, becoming our Savior and our Redeemer.
And it is in this openness through which you and I are able to develop a relationship of love with the God who enlightens and sanctifies us, who teaches, strengthens and encourages us each and every step we take in this journey of faith which you and I travel daily.
Throughout the remainder of this liturgical year, you and I are invited to listen to the Divine Son of God teach us what He is going to do for us. We will hear Him speak God’s Truth and become witnesses to His wondrous accomplishments, as presented to us through Luke’s Gospel during most of the Sundays in Ordinary Time.
What He will be doing and offering us will be intended to deepen our faith, as well as change and mold us into becoming His faithful disciples. For as Paul tells us in our Second Reading today from the First Letter he wrote to the Church in Corinth, “…in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”
You and I are members of the one true Church founded by Christ, and each one of us, whether layperson or cleric, is a vital component of that Body, which is the Body of Christ Himself. For as Paul writes, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.”
In essence, Paul is telling us that that the Body needs the diversity of its parts, each and every one of us, and would not function effectively without all of them.
That is why you and I need to hear what Jesus is saying to us in today’s Gospel, “The Spirit of the Lord…has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
Jesus is reminding us that our hearts are meant to be open to Him. He is telling us that if we are being true to the gifts which God has entrusted to us, every one of our moments has purpose!
Every one of those ordinary tasks that have to be done again and again is a building block for God’s Kingdom – a building block for eternity – if our eyes are open, if our hearts are receptive, and if we are being true to the gifts which God has entrusted to each of us.
May we open our eyes, Lord, so that we may see the value of each day! May we open our hearts that we may give our best to each person and each task!
And in Your good time, Lord, may we rejoice in the completion of the Kingdom which You and each one of us, Your children, have been building together – from the moment of our birth to the moment when we shall breathe our last, one moment at a time!
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “[Jesus] unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’” (Luke 4:17b-19 ~ Isaiah 61:1-2a)
- “Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, ‘Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:20-21)
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
- “Blessed [are] those whose way is blameless, who walk by the law of the LORD. Blessed those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:1-2)
- “…Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand.…[he] read out of the book from daybreak till midday…and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law… and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, ‘Amen, amen!’ Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD, their faces to the ground.” (Nehemiah 8:2, 3bc, 6)
- “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
- “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)
- “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27)
- “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63c)
Prayer for the Day
“Jesus, tender and loving Lamb of God,
Utmost Sacrifice of all sacrifices,
Your Glory is reverberated in the highest.
“Being preoccupied with my own well-being,
You chose to self-sacrifice Yourself,
Setting aside all Your personal glories,
For Your Birth and Death taught us true value
In all the individual moments we live for You,
Especially the value of loving without counting the cost.
“I thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your acts of Love!
Your actions have drawn me closer to You,
Guiding Me to live as You lived, to love as You loved.
“Teach me to model in smaller things,Anonymous
To sacrifice in order to help others,
Guiding my soul to endure abstinence,
So that my offerings may bring You joy.
Lamb of God, I thank you endlessly! Amen.”