Nehemiah 8: 2 – 4A, 5 – 6, 8 – 10; I Corinthians 12: 12 – 30; Gospel –Luke 1: 1 – 4; 4: 14 – 21
For most of this year the Gospel readings will be from the Gospel according to Saint Luke. We begin with the brief introduction by Saint Luke and move to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. 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 carpenters 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. In contemporary terms it could be said that Jesus began his ministry by presenting his mission statement. It’s a passage in which we are told 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.
The rest of Jesus’ ministry is his doing just that, and he continues to touch each one of us with his mission. He does so by his personal presence in our lives and in the ministry of the Church, and he does this by using his followers as instruments of his mission. In First Corinthians Saint Paul writes of how this mission of Christ is present within the Church. He speaks of the Church as the “Body of Christ”, and goes on to make a beautiful and detailed analogy of the human body with the members of the Church who make up the 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.
Paul is addressing one of the realities that was present in the early Christian communities, and is still present in the church today. The gifts that are meant to unite us together as one Body of Christ, can be the cause of jealousy and division. When we look at those around us and the particular gifts that are present, as well as the various jobs or ministries people are called to within the church, we can become judgmental and jealous. We know their faults and weaknesses and can become so focused on them that we fail to see their gifts. We can desire to do a certain ministry or job that we become jealous of those who are asked to do thee, while we are not asked.
The lesson in these readings is one that calls us to follow the example of Jesus and go home, or stay home in our own parishes and communities to carry out the mission Jesus has given us. And to do so as Saint Paul teaches us by looking at our fellow Christians as brothers and sisters who are gifted, as we are, and to use these gifts together so as to truly be the unites as the Body of Christ.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.