I Corinthians 12: 12 – 30, Gospel –Luke 1: 1 – 4; 4: 14 – 21
It is common that shortly after a man is ordained to the priesthood he returns to his home parish to celebrate his First Mass, or Mass of Thanksgiving. There he is in the Church he grew up in and possible was Baptized in, received his First Communion in, and was Confirmed. He is surrounded by family, friends and neighbors who watched him grow up and supported him during his years of seminary study. Hi begins his priestly ministry in a place that is full of memories of his life experiences and the joy of the local people seeing him ordained a priest. The event of a priest’s First Mass is very similar to what we hear in the Gospel for this weekend. We are told that after Jesus was baptized by John, and was tempted in the desert, he returned home. There is something rather touching in that of all the places Jesus could have begun his ministry, such as Jerusalem, he chose to go to his hometown. While Jesus came as Savior of the World, he never denied that he was born to Mary, and grew up in Nazareth where he learned the carpenter’s trade. He returns to his hometown to his home synagogue and there reads from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, and preaches his first sermon.
Jesus chose the sixty-first chapter of the Prophet Isaiah for his reading, and when he completes it he announces that this passage is fulfilled in their hearing. Jesus told them that he is anointed to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to prisoners, give sight to the blind, and set free those who are oppressed. Jesus leaves his home town and the rest of his ministry is his doing just that, he heals the sick, comforts the sorrowing, feeds the hungry, cast out demons, brings the dead back to life, and proclaims the Good News. He continues to touch each one of us with his saving presence by his personal presence in our lives and in the ministry of the Church. Just as Jesus would send out his disciples to do great things in his name, he calls us to be instruments of his mission. In First Corinthians Saint Paul tells us how we can do this. He writes of how we, the Church, are the “Body of Christ”, and he makes a beautiful and detailed analogy of the human body with the members of the Church, Body of Christ. The numerous members of the Church are blessed with particular gifts and he gives a list of the individuals present in the church at his time; apostles, prophets, teachers, of their call to do mighty deeds. There is the list of the ministries that are present; healers, assistance, administration, those who speak in tongues and those who interpret. All of these gifts, so different in many ways, serve one purpose to build up the Body of Christ.
The lesson in these readings is one that calls us to follow the example of Jesus and not to be afraid to minister at home and in our own parishes and communities. Sometimes this ministry to family and friends can be challenging and difficult, but part of our call is to live our faith at home. At the same time the reading from Saint Paul can give us the comfort at knowing that we are not alone, for we are united with all members of the Church as the Body of Christ. Christ is our head and is personally involved with each of us. Whether at home or away may we use the gifts we are blessed with to live and proclaim the Good News.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: relics of first century Nazareth. Photo by Father Etienne Huard, O.S.B.