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Scripture Reflections - January 23
Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Archives Msgr Paul E. Whitmore
Msgr. Paul E. Whitmore

Although we are well into a new year, we find that most of the problems and crises of 2021 are still with us in 2022, whether they are economic or political or social within our own country, or international problems of terrorism, or the dreaded covid pandemic – all of which can shatter our dreams for a world at peace and normal living.

Fortunately, there’s a treasure of hope in this Sunday’s readings, beginning with Nehemiah, appointed by King Artaxerxes to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, which lay in ruins following the exile. The spirits of the people also needed rebuilding, so Ezra, the priest, dusts off the neglected scrolls of the law, and calls all the people together, even children who are old enough to understand. From morning to night, Ezra reads to them the Law. Most had neglected its precepts for years. As they hear it read and explained by Ezra, they begin to weep tears of joy and of sorrow. After recommitting their lives to the Lord, they express their joy with days of feasting.

Today’s Gospel describes an even greater “reading.” As Jesus formally begins his mission on earth, he starts with his hometown of Nazareth. There, in the synagogue on a Sabbath, he reads to the people from the passage in Isaiah which proclaims the coming messianic age. In a voice filled with the fire of the Spirit, he announces to them Isaiah’s prophecy of a time of good news to the poor, liberty for captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and freedom for the oppressed. Then, handing the scroll to an attendant, he proclaims to all present, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” These words are the core of Jesus’ message to both the people of His day and of our times! Talk about a reason to hope!

In today’s second reading from St. Paul to the Corinthians, we find a blueprint for acting on the two readings we have heard. Some reflection points out the inspiration of the Holy Spirit on Nehemiah and Ezra, and on Jesus. St. Luke tells us in the Gospel that Jesus came from the desert to Nazareth “in the power of the Spirit.” It is the Spirit, too, that came upon us in our baptism and confirmation to make of us part of the Body of Christ. The Church is one body, but made up of many members. How very different we are!

St. Paul tells us that there are “important” members and “not-so-important” members. However, we are all needed, and must respect and support one another in charity. Why? So that this new messianic age may one day be realized.

To connect all this with our Christmas season so recently ended, the readings are all about the light of Christ come into the world. “In His light, we see light is still the reason for our hope and our action in the new year still so full of darkness.”

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