Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; I Cor 12:12-30; Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21
Englishman, Scottish man and Irishman selling bibles door to door, they have a bet who will sell the most in a day. They meet up at end of day and Englishman has sold 2, Scottish man had sold 3, but the Irishman who had a terrible stutter says hhhad sssold ssssixty. The other two asked how did he do it. He said, “Wwwhen Iiiii nnnnnnknock aaaat thththe ddddooor I said: Do you wwwwwant tto bbbuy a bbbbbible ooooorrr shshshould Iiii jjjust rrrread it tttto yyyyou?”
The central theme of today’s liturgy is God’s word. The people were saddened by God’s word in today’s first reading. Perhaps they recognized how they had failed to live up to it. But Ezra and Nehemiah told the people God’s word should bring us joy. Even if they had not been living by God’s word, on hearing it they could learn from it and start living as God instructed them.
When we break the laws of our society, we may get thrown into jail. God doesn’t send the police around when we break his laws, but when we ignore his word, it’s going to catch up with us in the long run. So many people rationalize bad behavior by saying Jesus is a good guy. He won’t punish me for this or that. But they forget, Jesus didn’t come to punish us. He came to show us the way to happiness and eternal life. When we choose a way contrary to his teaching we bring unhappiness upon ourselves.
Psalm 119 says, ‘”Your word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path.” If you have to go somewhere in the dark, it’s nice to have a flashlight to help you see where you’re going. You can walk in the dark if you wish, but that would not be very smart and you might be likely to end up hurting yourself. When we try to make it through life without God’s word, we are walking in the dark. We can’t say God is punishing us if, while we’re walking in the dark, we run into something or we fall. We did it to ourselves.
Nehemiah knew the people needed God’s light if they were ever going to succeed in getting back on their feet. Jesus knows we need God’s light. In today’s gospel Jesus is beginning his public ministry and he uses the Scriptures to describe the work he will do. People were impressed at first, but unfortunately, as we will hear next week, they rejected him.
Jesus said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled n your hearing.” “Today” is the important word here. It tells us God is speaking to us whenever we hear the Scriptures. Those who heard Ezra read the word of God and interpret it were hearing about things that happened almost a thousand years before, the stories of Abraham, Moses and the Exodus. But they saw its relevance for them that day. Jesus read from the book of Isaiah, written centuries before he was born, but he told his audience it had great meaning for them that day. “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” God’s word always speaks to us because God is a living God and his Spirit continues to communicate to us through that word.
In our second reading today, Paul reminds us of the importance of community. He tells us we can’t say I don’t need a church, I don’t need to come to Mass, I don’t need to pray with all those other people. We do need to because we are part of the body of Christ and we can’t say we do not need one another. When we separate ourselves from one another, we are denying the spiritual gifts God has given to others to help us and we are denying to others the spiritual gifts God has given us to help them. We need each other. We need to share our faith with each other, even if it is a matter of praying with one another.
To sum everything up, we need God’s word and we need each other to make it through this life to the joys of eternal life.