THE WORD OF GOD IN THE COMMUNITY OF GOD’S PEOPLE
HOMILY FOR THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C (SUNDAY OF THE WORD OF GOD).
On 30 September 2019, the feast of St. Jerome, (who is known for his translation of Scripture and commentaries on the Gospels), Pope Francis, in his Apostolic letter issued Motu Proprio “Aperuit Illis” which is the Latin of the opening lines in Luke 24: 45, “He opened their minds to understand the Scripture” established the third Sunday in Ordinary Time as “Sunday of the Word of God” to enable better study and dissemination of the Word of God. In today’s liturgy, the word of God takes central place in the assembly of God’s people. For us, where do we place the word of God?
In the first reading, Ezra the priest and scribe read the word of God from the book of the law at the assembly of all the people and they were attentive (Neh. 8:3). The book of the law refers to the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). This was Israel’s instruction manual for how to walk before God. Ezra read the word of God from a position above all the people (Neh. 8:4). It was a structure the people had prepared for this purpose, that the word of God would have greatest effect.
We too can be of aid in enhancing the spread and effectiveness of the word of God. We can be of aid in building places of worship more comfortable with little or no distraction, to enable people worship God in truth and in spirit. We can help in enhancing the sound systems in places of worship so that preachers can be clearly heard. We can facilitate the spread of the word of God through social media, which appears to be the order of the day and other means of communication. Preachers of the word of God are not left out, we are called to avail ourselves as true instruments for the word of God to have greater effects in the lives of the people through our words and actions. We are not called to preach our own words, but God’s Word and it is our responsibility to help the people understand the word of God as in the case of Ezra.
Just as Ezra the priest and scribe preached the word of God in the assembly of the people, the gospel presents to us two preachers of the word of God: Luke and Christ. On the one hand, as Pope Francis dedicated this Sunday to the study of the word of God, our study this liturgical year focuses more on the Gospel of St. Luke. Luke preached through his writing to Theophilus with a wider audience in mind at the beginning of the gospel in an orderly account, documenting the story of Christ from the annunciation of John the Baptist to Christ’ ascension. He already read Matthew and Mark’s accounts and gave a comprehensive gospel account. His gospel is one of the most interested in the role of women, children and social outcasts. It is known as the universal gospel, of which Gentiles are often put in favourable light. Luke is one of the most interested in the prayer life of Jesus Christ. His gospel is one with the most emphasis on the Holy Spirit and on joy, and his emphasis on preaching the good news, used several times in this gospel.
On the other hand, Christ preached about Himself in the synagogue as the fulfilment of the good news. He stood up to read from the book of the Prophet Isaiah saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim acceptable year of the Lord” (Is. 61:1-2). Christ never did anything of His own accord but by the power of the Holy Spirit. From the incarnation, He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit and He continued to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, and at His death on the cross, He gave up the Spirit.
In the prophecy of Isaiah read by Christ, He announces His mission to the poor, the brokenhearted, captives, blind and oppressed. Christ brings good news to all of us impoverished by sin. Sin breaks the hearts and enslaves us, but Christ has come to set us free. Sin blinds us, but Christ has come to heal and give sight to our blindness, both spiritual and physical. Sin oppresses its victims, but Christ has brought liberty to the oppressed. The worst thing that can happen to anyone is to lose the consciousness of sin. It is that moment when we take sin as a way of life and feel so comfortable with it. In view of this, Christ is presented in Luke 7:48 “As one who forgives sin (spiritual healing) before physical healing takes place.”
St. Paul in the second reading through his first letter to the Corinthians draws our attention as members of the body of Christ, who have received same Spirit by the virtue of our Baptism. He encourages us to remain united and work together as one body in Christ. Certainly, we are diverse in language, colour, culture and many other aspects, but the Spirit of God that was with Christ from the beginning until the end of his life on earth should be our binding force, and it makes no distinctions among us. As a priest from the Congregation of the Oblates of St. Joseph, this day we also commemorate the feast of Holy spouses and we are called to reflect on the love and unity that existed between Mary and Joseph. This is the good news Pope Francis calls us to preach and live.
This Sunday urges us to give better attention to the word of God and more value to the Sacred Book. It urges us to intensify our knowledge and study of the Bible, inculcating the spirit of lectio divina. It is also a day to recognize and acknowledge lectors dedicated in proclaiming the word of God to us at worship. It is a day of special enthronement of the word of God in our liturgy and more profoundly, in our lives. Let the words of our mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable unto you, o lord. Amen!
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ