God is present among us through his word; the word that unites, liberates and rebuilds us. It’s not a promise that we should wait to be fulfilled tomorrow. Whenever we welcome God’s word something in us is renewed. Let’s see how we can open ourselves to the recreating power of the word.
Nehemiah 8: 1–6, 8–10
Psalm 19 :8–10, 15
1 Corinthians 12: 12–30
Luke 1: 1–4; 4 14–21
Immediacy of God’s word
The Gospel gives the account of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, in his home place, Nazareth. During the service in the synagogue, Jesus reads the text from the prophet Isaiah, about the messiah anointed to bring the good news of liberation to captives. No doubt, it’s not the first time that the people hear about that; yet, this time there’s just something new going on. It’s no more a promise which people should wait for its accomplishment. In his homily, the shortest ever, Jesus simply says: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The liberation that the people have been waiting for is there.
That shows the vivacity of God’s word. It’s not history of some distant event; rather, it’s something fresh and alive in our present time and situation. That’s why Theophilus, mentioned in the prologue, receives the account that’s nourishing to his life. Theophilus means, the friend of God or God’s beloved. And all of us can fit in such slot; we too are friends, and beloved sons and daughters, of God. Hence, this message of liberation is surely for each one of us. Each person can only ask oneself: what aspects of my life need liberation, here and now?
Division, a wound in Christ’s body
We are still in the week of prayer for Christian unity (though some may be reading this after); division is one of the wounds in Christ’s body. Christians who are one family, yet, look at one another like opponents not realising, as Paul mentions in the 2nd reading, form a single body of Christ. It means, despite whatever differences there may be, we all belong to one family of God. Unfortunately, family communion has been wounded. That’s why this could be one aspect in which we need liberation.
Division exists also in our biological families and in other relationships, often causing a lot suffering. However, welcoming the word of God, in the context of Sunday which is the day of the resurrection; we celebrate the rolling away of the heavy stone that imprisons us in the tomb of our divisions. But such liberation comes through welcoming and listening to God’s word, as the first reading testifies.
What’s happening in the first reading?
The people of Israel: children, youth, adults, men and women, all together, listen to the word of God. Why do they listen in this manner? And why are they in tears?
The people have come back from exile in Babylon; they have reconstructed their houses, the temple and their city -Jerusalem. Their religious practice is limited to some repetitive liturgical rituals in the temple. They care little about the law and the words of the prophets. Certainly, such material reconstruction and the devotional routines in the temple are not enough to enable the people to face new challenges and live as truly liberated. Consequently, they are demoralised.
It’s for this reason that Nehemiah and Esdras, their leaders, exhort the people not to give in to despair; they should get on their feet and live as free people, but with a warning. It’s not enough to reconstruct your life, it’s equally important to know on which foundation are you reconstructing it. Indeed, doesn’t the psalmist sound a similar warning? “If the Lord does not build the house, the builders work in vain … “(Ps 126: 1-2). That’s why these two leaders read the word of God to the people, thereby laying a solid foundation for the new life of the people. Through listening the word, Israel comes to realise that she is a chosen people, a beloved spouse of God through the alliance. She realises also how God has been faithfully kind to her despite her own infidelity. In the mixture of remorse for their unfaithfulness and their awareness of being loved gratuitously, the people just can’t contain their tears. They weep.
Our own liberation and reconstruction
Probably, each one of us has some rebuilding to do too. Isn’t our family, our marriage, our professional life or other relationships not wounded in some way? Well, now, is the favourable time of healing; today is the moment of grace. But on which ground do we want to rebuild? Just remember, “If the Lord does not build the house, the builders work in vain … “(Ps 126: 1-2).
Thank you, Lord, for the words you speak to us “are spirit, and they are life” (Jn 6:63); give us wisdom that we may build the projects of our life on them.
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