FIRST READING (Ezra read from the book of the Law and the assembly understood what was read.)
A reading from the Book of Nehemiah (8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10)
Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand. Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate, he read out of the book from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the occasion. He opened the scroll so that all the people might see it—for he was standing higher up than any of the people—; and, as he opened it, all the people rose. Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, “Amen, amen!” Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the Lord, their faces to the ground. Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read. Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people: “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep”—for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”—The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (19:8, 9, 10, 15)
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life. (Cf. Jn 6:63c)
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. (R)
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye. (R)
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true, all of them just. (R)
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (R)
SECOND READING (You are Christ’s body and individually parts of it.)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (12:12-30)
Brothers and sisters: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
SECOND READING (You are Christ’s body and individually parts of it.)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (12:12-14, 27)
Brothers and sisters: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Cf. Lk 4:18)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, and to
proclaim liberty to captives. (R)
GOSPEL (Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (1:1-4; 4:14-21)
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: 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. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”—The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Nehemiah 8: 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
1 Cor. 12: 12-14, 27
Luke 1: 1-4, 4:14-21
“Your Words are Spirit and Life”
What ties our first reading and Gospel together is that each of them is an example of a Liturgy of the Word, a rite that goes back thousands of years, where people of faith stand attentively to hear the Word of God proclaimed, and then respond with the affirmation, “AMEN” or as we use now use, “Thanks be to God” or “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”.
The first reading comes from the Book of Nehemiah, a little-known Old Testament book, and it depicts a liturgical setting. Ezra, the priest, reads “plainly from the book of the law of God” (the Torah). But he does not just read God’s Word, he gives a sermon or homily, one that lasted over a half a day. In the minds of some even today, the seem to feel that some homilies still last that long. At the time of Nehemiah, the people had just returned to Jerusalem after an exile of some 70 years. They were divided, quarrelling and hostile to each other. They had forgotten what it was that bound them together – their common Covenant with the God of Israel, built on the foundation of the Law, God’s WORD.
And so we see Ezra, the priest, opening the scroll of the Law, the Torah, and reading from it for quite a while, explaining it as he goes along. When he ended his sermon, the people rejoiced, not because it was finally over, but because now – through the words and teaching of the priest – that had rediscovered their common roots and the truth of what they are called be: a truly CHOSEN PEOPLE.
In a society and culture where moral standards are always in danger of slipping away, especially with the constant efforts to “race to the bottom” in most media in order to promote the lowest common denominator of moral standards in everything, we need a place that reminds us that we can live in the IMAGE and LIKENESS of God. Mass media will always tell us how low we can go, or how far from God. But the Scriptures show us the heights to which we can rise. The readings and homily at each Sunday Mass keep us in touch with our roots and with the future to which God is calling us.
Another purpose of the readings and homily each week is to unify us as a Church. It should be a great force for our unity as a Church to realize that all over the world Catholics are listening to and reflecting on these very same readings, even when we cannot attend Mass together, or when we are forced to participate at Mass “on line”,
And although we are many parts and serve many functions in the Church as St. Paul reminds us, through the readings and homily, Jesus speaks to us both as His Body and as individuals – important parts of His Body – the CHURCH. Listening to God’s Word in the light of St. Paul we can ask ourselves, “What part of the body am I?” Are we part of Christ’s hands reaching out to help others? Are we part of Christ’s heart showing love and compassion? Are we Christ’s feet, taking his Gospel to others who have yet to know of him? Are we part of Christ’s lips proclaiming his Word, or his ears, listening to the anxieties of others? What part of the Body of Christ are you?
The he homily – any homily – should remind us of our mission. We are a people with a mission which is not only for our own personal salvation, but also for the salvation of others. A hallmark of Catholic spirituality is that we are led by the Spirit, not simply on a personal spiritual adventure, but we are led on a journey to build up the Church in some way. The lonely, isolated mystic has never been the norm for Catholic spirituality. Membership in the Church is. The gifts that St. Paul enumerates are not personal perfections but that are given to us to use them to strengthen our Church and our local community. They are gifts given FOR OTHERS.
In this first sermon found in today’s Gospel, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, and outlines His mission as bringing “liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed go free.” The readings and homily each week in this Liturgy of the Word remind us, encourage us, and hopefully move us to embrace the mission that is ours.
The readings and the homily are the place where we discover each week the life-giving truth of what we can be in Christ, the place that unifies us as parts of the one Body of Christ, and the place of mission – sending us out to extend the reach of Christ to the people around us as we leave Mass.
Like those who heard the instruction of Ezra and those who heard Jesus in Nazareth, we are taught the meaning of God’s Word for our day. How do we hear it? Do we take it to heart? How do we break open the word for others? Do we try to bring the message of God’s WORD into conversations with our world?
The readings we hear each week are our guiding star, our anchor, our roadmap, and our GPS that remind us of who we are in Christ, and what we can be in Christ, and what we are called to do in Christ. The Psalmist today reminds us of the effect of God’s words: “Your Words are Spirit and Life” Thus, each time we hear God’s word we reply, “AMEN, AMEN” or “THANKS BE TO GOD” because they always offer to us the true direction that will lead us home, to God.
Celebrant: God instructs us through His prophets, his apostles and through his own anointed Son, the WORD. We pray for strength to persevere in God’s eyes.
READER: That those anointed to lead the Church may be prophets of truth and justice, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That the Word of God in scripture and tradition may be “spirit and life” for people today, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the unity of all Christians throughout the world, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That, as many parts of one body, we may work to pray for each other, and to assist the poor and marginalized in our community, Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For our sick and for all who have died, as well as for the intentions we carry in our hearts, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Father, hear the prayers of your Church, one body filled with one Spirit, one people, called by your beloved Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. (all) AMEN.