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The Value of the Word of God

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
January 27, 2013

The first verses of our gospel today are the very first verses of the Gospel of Luke.  Here Luke tells us why he writes the gospel, “to provide an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.”

The fact that Luke  and the evangelists took the time to write down the gospel is a gift for us.  Without this and the other gospels we would not have this record of Jesus’ ministry and teaching that is so important to understanding who we are as Christians.

The first reading today begins with Ezra bringing the law before the people and reading out of it.  He then interprets it so that all might understand it.

We can parallel this to what we are have are doing.  We just heard readings from the Bible and now break open the Word.  We spend half our Mass on it and we call it the Liturgy of the Word.  As Catholics, the Bible as the Word of God is important to us.

But there is a little more to the story with Ezra and Nehemiah that should help us appreciate the written Word all the more.

The people had not heard the Law read to them in a long term.  When we say “law” we are referring to the writings of Moses and what God prescribed through the writings.  It had been a long time since it had been read.  Without the written Word, the law may have been lost forever.  This is why we should be grateful that Luke and the other evangelists wrote down the gospels so that we might still have them today.

It is God’s Word that helps bind us together in our faith.  Because we have a universal lectionary used in every Catholic Church across the world, as we celebrate Mass today, we are hearing the same words that every other Catholic who comes to Mass today hears.

It also binds us across time with everyone who has shared the Bible.  The Bible is not just God’s Word written down for people who lived 2,000 years ago.  It is a living breathing document.  Some say we just need the Gospels (and the rest of the New Testament).  They think the Old Testament is no longer relevant, superseded by Jesus.  But the Old Testament is vital to understand the story of God’s relationship with his people throughout the ages.

Their story is our story.

Paul writes of how we are one body in Christ.  We are different.  I already commented on how every Catholic Church will use these same readings today.  But the readings will be done in many different languages and broken up in many different cultures.

In the homily, the words from scripture will be broken open (interpreted) according to the community in which they are heard.  A community facing a tragedy this week may hear the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and think about how they are praying that Jesus come into their community to bring healing.  Meanwhile, another community may have celebrated a joyous event and give thanks for all that Jesus has done for them.

To me one of the great gifts of our Catholic Church is the unity we share through our bishops and pope, celebrating a common Mass rather than everyone doing their own thing.  I went to a Mass once in Vietnamese.  I do not know a single word of Vietnamese but because of our common Mass, I knew throughout the whole Mass what was going on.

We live in a world that teaches us to focus on ourselves and the accumulation of material goods.  What’s in it for me?

In this thinking, there is no common truth.  Everyone is out for themselves.  We look for people who agree with us.  In this way of thinking people develop their own “truth.”

This is not what our faith teaches us.  Our faith does not look for us to prove ourselves right or develop our own truth.

We don’t have to develop truth for ourselves.  We can find lots of facts (science) about how things we work.  We can know facts of history and dates.

This is not the truth we are called to seek in our hearts.  The truth that we are called to is not a matter of the brain but of the heart and soul.

Jesus brings us the “Truth” that really matters.  It is “Truth” with a capital “T”.  It is a Truth that never changes because it comes from God.   Jesus tells us that he is the way and the truth and the life.

We have only begun to understand what the Truth really is but the Truth has been set by God from all eternity.

Through the Spirit we are united in the Truth of Jesus Christ.  May we always seek and follow his truth.

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