3rd Sunday of the Year C
Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; 1Cor 12:12-30; Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’ Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong. It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand.
However, if readers like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar, it would be greatly appreciated by the author whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
According to the synagogue tradition of worship, one reading is taken from the book of the Law, one from the Prophets, followed by a sermon. In today’s Gospel, Jesus was invited to read and to preach in the synagogue of Nazareth on the Sabbath day. He chose a passage from the Book of Isaiah (Is 61:1-2): The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord (Lk 4:18).Then he offered words of instruction, simple and yet very important, words beyond their understanding. The Gospel records: The eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently on him (Lk 4:20).Then closing the book, he said: Today the scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing (Lk 4:21). In fact, not only this scripture passage was fulfilled, but also the whole book of the Old Testament was fulfilled in Jesus.
Up to that moment when Jesus was invited to the synagogue of Nazareth to read and to preach, the Jews were much upon their past. They were reminded they were a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people set apart . They were taught about Abraham whom they considered as their forefather in faith. They listened to the amazing story of Moses who had led them free from the Egyptian slavery, crossing the Red Sea on the way to the Promised Land. They were told about King Solomon who had built the Temple of Jerusalem, grandiose and magnificent and how Nehemiah had pioneered in the reconstruction of the Temple after the Babylonian exile.
Observing the Temple, one of Jesus’ disciples said to Him: Teacher, look! Look at the huge blocks of stone and the enormous buildings (Mk 13:1). Jesus said to him: You see these great buildings. The day will come when not one stone will be left upon another – all will be torn down (Mk 13:2). In the year of 70 AD, the Roman Army led by General Titus came to destroy the Temple. Titus might have heard Jesus’ prediction about the destruction of the Temple. However, he purposely spared a portion of the wall around the Temple to show future generations how great the Roman army was, capable of destroying the Temple without a bulldozer, bomb, or dynamite. Nine years later, Titus became emperor of the Roman Empire. When a group of priests made a pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall of the Temple, a fellow priest whispered to another priest’s ear, saying: What the hell could they knock down this wall?
Also at that period, the Jews dreamed about their future. They looked forward to the day of restoration of their kingdom of Israel. Therefore, the Messiah himself was in their midst, but they did not recognize him, or accept him. That is why they still longed for a messiah-liberator to come.
Those things of their pride are more or less similar to those of our own pride. What might be things of our pride? We may be proud that we come from a religious family, that there is a priest, a nun or even a bishop in our family. We may be proud that we have been photographed and shaken hands with a certain bishop or cardinal, or even with this pope or that pope. We may be proud that our ancestor was canonized a saint. We may be proud that our birthplace was famous for a magnificent cathedral. Those things of pride are good in a sense that our life needs somebody important to look up to or something good to aim at it. However to be proud as such so as to defend ourselves or to cover up something wrong and sinful, then it is for fear that we would be a fool and our mask would be uncovered.
To be proud as such so as to defend our wrongdoing, then it is for fear that our relatives in high position could not defend us or do not want to defend us. Those things of pride can make us become complacent and dependent on our ancestor, not wanting to make progress in our journey of faith and practice of it. In that case we let us live like a mistletoe.
Our ancestor was such and such great a person, or did a certain great thing is one thing. The fact that whether we ourselves live and practice our faith is another matter. While we live in a between time, between the time Jesus was born in our human history and the time when he will come to sum up history, we cannot hang around with a complacent and indifferent attitude
While we look back to the past for tradition and example, and look forward to the future with hope and expectation, we have to live our faith in the present - here and now - with our ability, means, resources, and circumstances available. Our faith is not merely a faith dependent on the past or on the future. Yet in reality, we might let our faith depend on the past when we consider the coming of the Savior as a distant event unrelated to our present lives.
We might let our faith depend on the future when we tell ourselves someday we will reconcile ourselves with God by making peace with God through a sincere confession with a contrite heart and humble spirit; some day we will live and practice our faith. Unfortunately, that day may never come or it may come too late because suddenly we might have been gone for good.
Prayer for knowing how to live one’s faith here and now:
Oh Lord whom I adore and put my hope in.
We thank you for the gift of faith.
Do not let our faith depend on our history.
Also, do not let us dream of an undetermined future.
Teach me how to live my faith
here and now. Amen.
(1). Preface of Sundays in Ordinary Time 1