Sunday Reflection - 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Sunday Reflection - 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted: Thu, 20 Jan 2022 16:22

Sunday Reflection - 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

There is a great tradition here in UK when the Queen officially opens Parliament—this happens annually and, in the "Queen's Speech", the government of the day lays out its policy for the upcoming year. It offers the world a chance to see British pageantry at its best, with slamming doors and the solemn walk of MPs from the Commons to the Lords, with party differences set to one side for a couple of hours anyway. In a much simpler way, our Gospel today shows Jesus giving his plan of ministry to the people he grew up with in the synagogue in Nazareth. Using the great prophet Isaiah as his inspiration, Jesus does not make any false political promises. Rather he offers a counter-cultural vision of the reign of God.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. (Lk 4:16-19)

On this very special day, the Church encourages us to reflect on the power of God's Word. Our weekly Eucharist celebration is divided into two parts: it is only after we have heard readings from scripture and allowed time to reflect on those unique Words, that we come together to break bread and share the cup of blessing. Some years ago, I was privileged to spend some time in the parish of St Dominic in Huyton. At their Sunday Mass, there was always a pause after the proclamation of the Gospel: just as there is need for silence after communion to enable a true and personal communion, so this pause allows us to reflect on what the Word is saying to each of us. Perhaps this is a simple practice that each parish could adopt? Before preachers like me give our interpretation, you would have a chance to come to terms with the three readings from the chosen Sunday. In setting up this special Sunday at the end of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wanted us to appreciate the great richness that Scripture offers us. This is exactly what Jesus is doing in the synagogue today: with Him, we see the power and authenticity of the Word. Today's gospel helps us to realise John's powerful Christmas proclamation:

The Word became flesh and lived among us. (Jn 1:14)

Today is that powerful day when we need to thank our lectors for their ministry of proclaiming the Word. Every week, women, men and children stand up at mass to share the given scripture for that week. They are, literally, following in the footsteps of Jesus. I have been edified by the care and preparation that goes into this ministry, as they work carefully on enunciation, pronunciation, and the, all important, pause. Today make sure we thank our lectors by perhaps inviting them to come forward and renew their commitment to their ministry.

It is this love of sacred scripture that we share with our Orthodox and Protestant sisters and brothers. This Word of God is a source of unity that is especially crucial in this octave of Christian Unity. However, it goes much deeper than this as the Holy Father reminds us:

This Sunday...will be a fitting part of that time of year when we are encouraged to strengthen our ties with the Jewish people.

In this proclamation of the Word, we actively share the mission of Jesus. This is a mission that cannot be taken lightly: our Gospel is not just a collection of words; it is a challenge to make the Word-made-flesh part of our outlook and living. We are invited to be bearers of good news—Christianity is not a harbour for the miserable and the narcissists to gather. This week, we must all try to be positive and bring light to others, instead of weighing family and friends down with our own insecurities. Today the challenge is to ensure an outreach to the poor: while we are all poor in some way, there is a need to recognise this special care of the economically poor. I was deeply impressed by a friend who recently reached out to a homeless person, one we can so easily ignore in today's busy life. She did not put any money into his hand, instead she simply took him into McDonald's for a 'happy meal'—that is such a real way of sharing good news over hot chocolate and chicken McNuggets! For her, living the gospel is not a case of talking the talk—we can all be so good at that in our preaching and telling others what to do. I see this encounter as deeply Eucharistic as she walked the walk of Jesus. This week is our opportunity to help people break free from their prisons of selfishness, hatred and bitterness—sadly there are those, perhaps in your own family, who can only think of themselves. Christianity is a call to make a difference and offer true freedom: forgive those who have harmed you. Today is the call to see as Jesus sees: to see the potential and great love that exists in our world, even in times of pandemic. Jesus is urging the people of Nazareth to open their eyes and see what is all too obvious. Jesus is the one who is to usher in the new and exciting reign of God—can we accept that challenge? It is all too easy to be blind to the needs of others and be caught up in our own worries. Blindness to the pain of our world can be overcome. Indeed, this time of global crisis has helped us all to see our duty to promote the common good, helping people that they live in the beautiful favour of God. We are indeed blessed: today bask in that love of God because you are so loved and special. Look to your dignity, as a beloved child of God, and realise your amazing potential, as Marianne Williamson reminds us:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves; Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

Watch and reflect:

Author: Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB

Image: Sincerely Media on Unsplash

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