Homilies

3rd Sunday of the Year (C)

  • January 16, 2022

views/img/homily/H27/135.jpgThe first reading taken from the Book of Nehemiah is probably one of the most poignant stories in the Old Testament. After fifty years of captivity in Babylon, a portion of the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem. Finding their beloved city in utter ruin, they started the long and difficult work of its reconstruction. When they had finally finished rebuilding the temple and the city walls, the priest, Ezra, gathered the people, men, women, and those children old enough to understand. He read out to them the Book of the Law from morning till noon, and they all listened attentively. As they heard the words of the law, everyone wept. Ezra then blessed the people, who responded, “Amen, amen!” and they prostrated themselves to the ground before the Lord.

How much they must have missed the Torah during all those years in Babylon! Chances are the younger generation may have never heard it. Now they do not only have their city and their temple back. They also have the Word of God again.

This marked a new beginning for the People of God. On this day, the covenant was renewed and the Law of Moses was re-established as the people’ rule of life.

Fast forward, and four centuries later. Jesus returned to his hometown in Nazareth and entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He was handed the scroll and began to read from the prophet Isaiah, “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…” When he finished reading, the people’s eyes were fixed intently on him, and he declared, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus had just been baptized in the Jordan and spent forty days in the desert. Now he returned to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit” to begin his mission. What we hear in today’s gospel is Jesus’ inaugural address where he laid down his mission statement. He was sent by God to rebuild the hearts of his people, more than their city, and to return to him, their real home.

In this gospel passage, we are given a clue on the deeper meaning of Jesus’ mission. Yes, the prophet foretold that when the Messiah comes, the blind will see, the oppressed will be set free and so on.

Fast forward again, and twenty centuries later. Today, there are still many who are blind, oppressed, poor, and hungry in the world. In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI asks, “What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought?” (p. 44) A disturbing question, indeed, for the world today does not seem to be any better than when Jesus came.

Responding to his own question, the Pope continues, “The answer is simple: God. He has brought God.” And this makes all the difference. In Jesus, we now know and see the invisible God. Through him, we now have access and intimacy with the Transcendent Being. With him, we now find the path to take in this world. And most of all, in him we now live God’s own life, which is the life of love.

This is what St. Paul tells us in the second reading. In baptism, we have received God’s life through the Holy Spirit. This same Spirit unites us all in Christ, making us into one body, the Body of Christ, the Church. Thus, as we share Christ’s life, we also share his mission.

Like Christ, we too are sent to proclaim the good news to the poor, restore sight to the blind, set prisoners free… And in every circumstance, we too say with Christ, “Today, the Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

We may not be able to feed every hungry mouth or heal every infirmed body or soul, but we can always bring God to them by our presence and action.

They say that Mother Teresa once picked up a dying man abandoned on the street and brought him to their clinic. There she nursed him until he died. There was not much she could do for him. But he died peacefully in her arms, knowing that he was loved.

With a little tweak on Jean Valjean’s last words, the truth remains that “to be loved is to see the face of God.”

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