3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 23 January 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Responsorial: Psalm 19; II: I Corinthians 12: 12-30; Gospel: Luke 1: 1-4, 4:14-21
Did you make any resolutions for the new year? What are your hopes for the year ahead? What are the worries, fears, or disappointments you find weighing upon your soul? These are good, valid questions we can consider as another year begins. But do our answers indicate our personal desires and feelings or do they seek and pursue those answers we would find with God?
Each of the Scriptures we can listen to today proclaim a very distinct, exciting, and encouraging message. But they also share truths that many unbelievers and, sadly many Christians find hard to believe. But in spite of these difficulties, God seeks for us to experience the promise, power, and realities of God’s Words of Spirit and Life.
For many people, if we were to ask, they would consider the invitation to read and study the Bible as rather underwhelming. The attraction of the television, internet activities, or using and exploring the latest techno tool as being far more enticing. And, being honest the study, of Scripture can be hard work, even tedious at times. Yet our responsorial psalm is clear: “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.”! So where is the problem?
The frequent difficult response of people to God’s Word is encountered in our first reading from the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. The story shared is that while working to restore Jerusalem copies of the Hebrew Scriptures had been found. This occurred while the efforts were struggling and discouragement was growing, similar to the restoring work of God’s Spirit in the Church today. Nehemiah and the High Priest Ezra set aside a day to read and preach, explain the found Scriptures. The entire day was spent while the men, women, and children, old enough to understand, listened. The initial reaction was a sense of failure and realization at their neglect and sins before God. But Nehemiah shared a fuller truth from God’s Spirit. He called the people to celebrate God’s Word with thanksgiving, feasting, and joy. And he stated, “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Neh. 8:10).
And our Psalm affirms this truth. True holiness and obedience bring the joy of God in our lives. Even when or if our circumstances are not happy. God’s Word is described in Psalm 19 as refreshing, perfect, as rejoicing the heart, and enduring forever.
But why is there so much sourness, judgment, strife, and disharmony among people professing to be believers of God and members of God’s Church? The answer is found in the second reading and the Gospel. When our study of God’s Word, when our worship and liturgies are not allowed to be infused with the Holy Spirit we soon find the dust and detritus of the world shrouding our treasures and joys.
It is important to understand and recognize the peril illustrated above. And it is essential to allow the Holy Spirit, with the Light of God’s Word, to bring us to God and what God would bring in our lives. The cleansing mercies and forgiveness of God will cleanse and remove the clutter and mess that may bury the living treasure of God’s Word. This work of the Holy Spirit did just that for the people of Nehemiah’s day. But God doesn’t just leave us cleansed and sitting, empty by the side of the road. God brings His joy, purpose, and power into our lives as we plunge into the Words of Spirit and Life we will find in Scripture and prayer.
The great Sacrament of the Eucharist is shared in the prayerful sharing and exploration of God’s Word united with the Spirit-drenched celebration of the Eucharist. This holy joy must be shared in the fullness of God’s Spirit united in and uniting the faithful in holy communion. Our failure to experience this fullness is a warning of our allowing the clutter and debris of worldly worries and divisions to crowd in our souls and our communities. Great are the joys and holy surprises God will bring for those who seek His kingdom in Word and Spirit. Our seeking and our Yes! to God are thresholds to blessings untold.