3rd Sunday Year C
Theme of the week: Draw strength from our joy in Christ; and reached out to the lessor members of our faith community.
The Jews had just returned from exile to Babylon. The temple was in ruin and needed reconstruction. Ezra the scribe, stood on a dais (which represented authority) and read out the Book of the Law to the people. Ezra’s reading reminded the people of their plight and the difficulties ahead. These thoughts brought apprehension and tears to their eyes. So Ezra and the leaders reminded the people of the grace of God that had been showered upon them and that they should rejoice instead. The phrase “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (verse 10), which inspires a popular hymn, reminds us that in the face of difficulties, we should draw strength from our joy in the Lord.
There are many parallels between the scene in the First Reading and that of the Gospel. Jesus was in the synagogue. Like Ezra, he stood up, assumed a position of authority, and read out the Old Testament passage from Isaiah 61:1-2. Jesus proclaimed that the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him, to bring deliverance to the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed; and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour (verse 18-19). Then, rolling up the scroll, he proclaimed himself to be the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesy. In saying this, Jesus effectively proclaimed that he is God. In the First Reading, the temple needed repair. In the Gospel passage, we are the temples of God, and these temples too need repair. The repair work requires us to follow Jesus and obey his teachings, so that our spiritual health may be restored. Like the people in the First Reading, we too should not be apprehensive of the challenges ahead, but instead draw strength from our joy in he Lord.
The Second Reading in the previous week spoke of the Holy Spirit bestowing different gifts upon us. This week’s Second Reading continues this teaching by explaining to us the reason each of us are given these different gifts. In the passage, Paul uses the analogy of the body to explain the importance of the various ministries of the Church, that each has a different but equally important role to play. Then he went on to name a number of these roles: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, helpers, etc. The invocation of the image of a body is more than just a convenient analogy. It underscores the theological truth that we the Church is in fact the body of Christ. For the human body to be healthy and functioning, the body parts must carry out their respective designated functions. And so it is for the Church. For this body of Christ to be healthy and functioning, we as parts of this body must each do our parts. Cautioning against the belittling of lesser members of our faith family, Paul instructed us to treat the less respectable members with greater respect (verse 23); for “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.” (verse 26) Let us pause and reflect: How do I treat the lesser members of our faith community – the poor, the physically and mentally challenged, the defenceless, the spiritually impoverished, etc? Have I been supportive of them? Can I do more to help these lesser members of our faith family to face their challenges with courage? Can I help them draw courage from their joy in our Lord? May the Spirit of the Lord be upon us as we live out this calling, to bring deliverance to the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed. Amen.