January 25, 2013

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Nehemiah furnishes the first reading for this weekend.

As is the case in all the Old Testament books, this book has as its chief concern the reinforcement of the people’s fidelity to God.

In this reading, Ezra, who was a priest, called together men, women and children old enough to comprehend. He admonished this gathering to listen carefully to the Scripture.

After hearing the reading of the Scriptures, the people in this congregation affirmed their faith. Ezra continued by interpreting what he had read.

Finally, Ezra and Nehemiah, called the people to rejoice. God had spoken to them. God was guiding them.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to Corinth provides the next reading. It is always important in reading the epistles to the Corinthians to consider the atmosphere in which the Christians of Corinth lived. Corinth was an important commercial center and meeting point, a very large city.

Even in the Roman Empire, in which vice and greed reigned supreme, the inhabitants of Corinth had the reputation of being exceedingly licentious.

This was the atmosphere. In many respects, the evils in this atmosphere were contagious, drawing in many Christians. Paul mentions this fact in the two epistles he wrote to the Church there.

Paul constantly had to call the Corinthian Christians away from the temptations the pagan environment surrounding them pressed upon them.

He also had to contend with the competitiveness among the Christians. They vied with each other, even in the Church. They quarreled with each other. They schemed against each other. They gossiped about each other.

In this reading, Paul insists that all the baptized are in the Body of Christ. However, the Body has many members. Each has a vocation. There is no place for competition.

Finally, St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading.

Midway in this reading, Luke directly addresses Theophilus, describing him honorifically as “most excellent.” Luke seems to have written his Gospel for one person and to one person.

Scholars debate if this person had the name of Theophilus, or was it the Gospel’s title, since “Theophilus” in Greek means “friend of God.” In any case, the person apparently enjoyed some prestige, hence the use of the words “most excellent.”

In this reading, Jesus appears in the synagogue of Nazareth to explain the mission of salvation. It is clear. Salvation, a gift from God to people who had lost all by sin, was unfolding in himself.

God’s mercy is everlasting. Humans are not left to their doom. Jesus reads from Isaiah, the prophet, who called people in times long past to be renewed in God’s mercy.

Reflection

The Church has celebrated Christmas, the feast of the birth of Jesus, and the feasts of the Epiphany of the Lord, and of the Baptism of the Lord. In the lessons of these great liturgical events, the Church has introduced us to Jesus. It has identified Jesus. He is the son of Mary and, therefore, human. He is the Son of God. He is the Redeemer.

Now the Church begins to tell us about salvation. It comes only from Jesus. To know it, humans must repent.

First Corinthians sets the stage. If we have accepted Christ into our hearts, we belong to God. Each of us has a personal vocation, because each of us is part of Christ, if we are true to the Gospel. God provides for us in our individual vocations.

Union with Christ is the only hope. The congregation’s amazement at hearing Jesus in the synagogue is a reminder that the Lord also has the wisdom humans need to reach eternal life. The people that day saw that salvation was fulfilled in the Lord. This acknowledgement is the beginning of the faith that all must possess if they truly unite with Jesus. †

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