Detailed homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C (SUNDAY OF THE WORD OF GOD)
Theme: MAKING ROOM FOR THE WORD OF GOD IN OUR LIVES
By: Fr Gerald Muoka
Homily for Sunday January 23 2022
R1 – Neh 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10
R2 – 1 Cor 12:12-30
GOSPEL – Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
A story was told about a young man and an old preacher. The young man had lost his job and didn’t know which way to turn. So he went to see the old preacher. Pacing about the preacher’s study, the young man ranted about his problem. Finally, he clenched his fist and shouted, “I’ve begged God to say something to help me. Tell me, Preacher, why doesn’t God answer?” The old preacher, who sat across the room, spoke something in reply – something so hushed it was indistinguishable. The young man stepped across the room. “What did you say?” he asked. The preacher repeated himself, but again in a tone as soft as a whisper. So the young man moved closer until he was leaning on the preacher’s chair. “Sorry,” he said. “I still didn’t hear you.” With their heads bent together, the old preacher spoke once more. “God sometimes whispers,” he said, “so we will move closer to hear Him.” This time the young man heard and he understood. We all want God’s voice to thunder through the air with the answer to our problem. But God’s is the still, small voice… the gentle whisper.
Beloved in Christ, today is the Sunday of the Word of God. Remember, Sunday 26th January 2020, marked a new observance established by Pope Francis in his Motu Proprio “ _Aperuit illis”_ to his next quest, to be celebrate annually, every Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as the Sunday of the Word of God, and to be dedicated to the celebration, study and spreading of the Word of God.
In his homily that day, Pope Francis admonishes us that we need God’s Word so that we can hear, amid the thousands of other words in our daily lives, that one word that speaks to us not about things, but about life; as we could perceive from the introit story that God still whispers to us in various ways, especially, through his words in the scriptures.
Furthermore, the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy, focus our attention on the importance and power of the Word of God; challenging us to listen to the Word of God, accept it into our hearts, then put it into practice as we live out our lives, thus liberating ourselves and others from all types of bondages. It is only at this point that one could boast of having made a room for God’s word in our lives.
The first reading, taken from Nehemiah, describes a public reading of Sacred Scripture, by Ezra, which challenges the people of God to turn a new leaf, with a new outlook. The incident took place immediately after rebuilding the Temple and restoring the city, Ezra leads the people in a “Covenant renewal” ceremony by reading and interpreting the Law. Point of note here, is the manner in which they made a room for God’s word in their lives; They bowed down, and face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord.
The Gospel reading equally describes how, on a Sabbath, Jesus stood before the people in the synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth, reading and interpreting what Isaiah had prophesied about the Messiah and his mission. Jesus claims that he is One sent “to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberation to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed.” The mission of Jesus is to give liberation to everyone who will listen to his “Good News,” accept it and put it into practice. Luke reports that surprise and admiration were the initial reactions of the people who were astonished at the power and eloquence of this son of their soil
*MAKING ROOM FOR THE WORD OF GOD IN OUR LIVES: AN EXEGETICAL ANALYSIS OF THE READINGS*
After defeating Babylon, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the exiled Jews, who had spent seven decades of exile in Babylon, could return home to Jerusalem. The Jews who returned rebuilt their ruined Temple (Ezra 6:15-17), and finished rebuilding the city walls under Ezra the priest, their spiritual leader, and Nehemiah, the Governor appointed by Persia (Nehemiah 6:15). The Lord gave an important mission to both men. They were to teach the Hebrew Scriptures and inspire the people to the high ideals of their ancestral religion. In today’s reading, Ezra is leading the people in a “Covenant renewal” ceremony. In this ceremony, with the active assistance of a few Levite helper-priests, Ezra reads and interprets the Law for the Jews gathered before the Water Gate, from early in the morning till mid-day on the first day of the Jewish year (Nehemiah 8:8). The Torah, thus, becomes a living Word of power, grace and forgiveness for these exiles. It evokes from them a dramatic response. They have come to realize the many ways in which they have failed to keep God’s Commandments in their lives. Hence, with tears of repentance in their eyes and joy in their hearts, the people respond with a great “Amen!” Israel, as we sing in today’s Psalm, was rededicating itself to God and His Law. The passage describes the birth of preaching: the first homily took place at an assembly of the Chosen People of God during the 5th century BC! In the Gospel, Jesus, too, reads from the Scriptures and interprets them by identifying himself with the messianic figure and mission depicted in the reading: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me…He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and glad tidings to the poor.” The people equally received this message of good tidings with initial amazement and happiness. In the both readings, the word of God was given a special place (room) in their hearts. We can ask ourselves, “What is our own response when we listen to the word of God?”
(1) *WE SHOULD PROMOTE AND PROPAGATE BIBLE READING AND STUDY*
Our Christian docility and adherence to the plea of the church on the Sunday of the Word of God requires promoting bible reading and study on individual, family and group capacities. Bible reading enables us to know Jesus more and to love him better. That is why we should set apart a time in the morning and in the evening to read a part of the Bible, giving priority to the Gospels and the Epistles. This reading should be an integral part of the evening family prayer. Our children should be encouraged to read the Bible with the adults explaining to them what they read. . Five or ten minutes each day will make it possible to read the entire New Testament easily at least twice each year.
(2) *WE MUST MAKE ROOM FOR THE WORD OF GOD IN OUR LIVES AND FAMILY*
The supreme pontiff, Pope Francis once said, “let us not ignore God’s word. It is a love letter, written to us by the One who knows us best.” Every Christian knows that God is our first love. In reading reading the bible, we again hear God’s voice, see his face and receive his Spirit. That word brings us close to God. Pope Francis admonishes us not to keep it at arm’s length, but carry it with us always, in our pocket, on our phone. Let us give it a worthy place in our homes. Let us set the Gospel in a place where we can remember to open it daily, perhaps at the beginning and at the end of the day, so that amid all those words that ring in our ears, there may also be a few verses of the word of God that can touch our hearts. To be able to do this, let us ask the Lord for the strength to turn off the television, and open the Bible, to turn off our cell phone and open the Gospel.
(3) *LET’S YIELD TO BIBLE READING (STUDY) CHALLENGE*
The scripture upholds that, “The word of God is a lamp for our feet, a light on our path.” Many Christians are blind today because they lack the knowledge of the word of God and thus, keep perishing (Hos 4:6). Today’s celebration thereby, propels us to yield to the challenge of bible reading (study) on daily basis via verses, chapters and books. Sometimes, we realize that our last seen on Facebook = 2 minutes ago, last seen on Instagram = 10 minutes ago, last seen on WhatsApp = 2 seconds ago, last seen on Tiktok = online, etc., whereas, last seen on Bible = 2 years ago, while some, 10 years ago. Get your bible today, dust it and embrace the challenge.
Finally, a priest on house-to-house visitation of his parishioners asked a certain lady if she owned a copy of the Bible. “I certainly do!” she replied with some pride. To his next question, did she read it regularly, she responded, “Oh, yes!” and sent her little daughter to get the Bible from the table drawer. As she showed it to the man, her spectacles fell from between the pages. Without thinking, she exclaimed, “Oh, here are my glasses! I’ve been looking for these for 3 years!”
Beloved, how many years have your glasses been in your bible unnoticed?
MAY THE HOLY SPIRIT SPUR IN US AN UNQUENCHABLE HUNGER AND UNWAVERING DOCILITY FOR THE WORD OF GOD. AMEN!
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
_FR GERALD MUOKA._