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Pastor's Letter 20220123 - 23 January 2022 - Fulfilled in Your Hearing

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January 23rd, 2022

Third Sunday-Ordinary Time


Jesus reads from the scrolls in the Synagogue

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:  

Fulfilled in Your Hearing” 

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Unlike the scene at another Watergate, where an unworthy act of political ambition eroded the people’s trust of their government, ancient Jerusalem’s “Water Gate” was the site of a more laudable attempt to reconstruct the moral and religious fiber of a foundering nation.  In today’s First Reading (Nehemiah 8:2-10,) Ezra was sent to Jerusalem to do just that.  His reform resulted in a dramatic transformation of the traditions of ancient Israel.  Under his tutelage, the Law became a compendium of detailed, divine legislation.  This emphasis of “the-law-over-and-above-relationship” introduced into the faith of Israel a legal orientation that was to become so evident in the New Testament.  Whereas, Ezra spoke of “laws,” Jesus proclaimed “liberation.”  


Much later, in Corinth, Paul preached to the people near the city’s northern wall, where the temple of the Greek god, Asclepius was located—noted as a “god of healing.”  There were separate, terra-cotta human limbs scattered about on the site, as tribute to cures that reputedly occurred there.  In contrast to the image of “individual parts,” Paul expounds on the loving “unity” of all Christians within the “Body of Christ” in our Second Reading (1 Corinthians 12:12-30.)  Believers are united in their dependence upon the saving act of God—Jesus’ ministry, suffering, death and resurrection…the “Christ event.”  Maintaining the unity of the body in harmony and vitality, God has given each “member” a function that contributes cooperatively and mutually toward the well-being of the “whole body” of the People of God.


(Today, we begin the consecutive reading of †Luke’s Gospel, which was originally joined to his other work, the Acts of the Apostles.)  Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21,) starts with Jesus’ homecoming to Nazareth and His inaugural declaration, which scholars have called Jesus’ “magna carta of liberation theology.”  Luke explained Jesus’ mission as a proclamation of gladness for the poor; liberty for captives; sight for the blind; release for prisoners; and a year of favor for all.  Liberty and release, in ordinary Christian usage, came to mean forgiveness from sin, and freedom from all its manifestations, whether physical or spiritual.  The included portion of the reading from Isaiah 61 portends Jesus’ ministry of salvation as liberating, for the whole person.  A persistent mission for the liberation of all peoples continues today in the activities of the Church.  

The Day of the Lord’s Favor

It is quite normal for newly-elected heads of state to make a solemn speech, in which they outline their policies.  Jesus did something similar at the start of His ministry:  In the synagogue at Nazareth, He summed up His mission by reading a passage from Isaiah, that announced the “Day of the Lord” had come.  He told His listeners it would be a day of favor for everyone, but especially the poor and the oppressed.  Such was the Good News He proclaimed.  He was the “new bailiff” sent by God to His debt-ridden people.  According to the Pharisees, the Day of the Lord would be a day of judgment—and here was Jesus, declaring that it was indeed a day of the Lord’s favor, not just for the deserving, but for everyone.

The Lord’s favor is not limited to a particular day.  It can fall upon us any day—we can find fulfillment even on this very day.  The Good News is that salvation is not achieved through our own merits, but through the goodness of God.  This is the heart of the Good News.  The only thing to be done is to open our hearts to the Savior, Who has come to bring us salvation and joy. 

At the root of innumerable wrongs in our world is the discrepancy between word and deed, that is seen everywhere in the weakness of Churches, parties and persons.  This was the chief fault Jesus found with the Pharisees, when He said, “They do not practice what they preach.”  Gandhi put it like this:  “My life is my message.”  And so, it could be with us, too.  We must remember that Jesus didn’t merely announce the Good News and leave it at that.  He began to make it a reality.  

The Church is the Body of Christ

In modern medicine, we are accustomed to consulting “specialists” for particular bodily dysfunctions.  We have cardiologists, internists, orthopedists, podiatrists, and on and on.  Specialization is good, but it can have a downside….  Sometimes such practitioners are so concerned with organs and structures, they may forget the whole human being….  They may know virtually nothing about the individual whose eye, or heart, or hip they are treating.  

The human body forms a unity, in that it is composed of many interrelated parts and systems.  Those “members” are quite different from one another and have unique functions.  Some are, undoubtedly, more important that others, yet, to be complete, the body needs all of them—the members need each other. 

So, it is with the People of God.  We, though many, form one Body in Christ, as Paul told the Corinthians.  By means of our Baptism, we have become members of the Mystical Body of Christ—the Church.  Some might wish to “go it alone,” independent of the community.  But there can be no such thing as an isolated Christian.  Those who deliberately cut themselves off, wound the community. We are part of one another, and must not try to “go it alone.”

Community makes demands upon us, to be sure.  For this reason, the temptation to seek salvation independent of others is strong.  But we need each other, just as the parts of the body need one another.  And the Church, too, needs all of us.  We need to have some sense of “belonging to one another,” and to Christ.  We have to get involved even when we would rather just look after ourselves.  

Belonging to a community has obvious benefits.  If we consider practical examples, such as a rope, the analogy becomes quite clear.  Each strand of a rope is, in itself, rather insignificant, and weak.  But when braided together with other strands, it produces a combined strength which belies such singular weakness.  So, it is with people, who gain strength from “togetherness.”   People take courage from knowing each other, encouraging each other and from standing together.  Great things can be done when people work together.  One particular consideration may not require a “physical presence,” to have an effect:  community prayer.  If one who is suffering truly believes people are “praying for them” to find relief, they can be buoyed in spirit by that simple comfort. The human psyche is more mysterious than we will ever realize, and gathering strength from even “assumed” community support has been shown to have a salutary benefit.  

The emphasis on community comes from Jesus, Himself, although He used a different image to describe it:  the image of the vine and its branches, When He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”  It is a simple, but profound, illustration of unity and interdependence.  It’s obvious that branches need the vine.  But the vine also needs the branches, because they produce the fruit! 

This is how Jesus wanted it to be between Him and His disciples…and the way He wants it to be between Him and us.  Paul said, “Jesus is the Head of the body; we are the limbs of the body.”  Without a sense of belonging together, of caring for one another and being responsible for one another, one is not really a Christian….

The fruit that Jesus desires from us is primarily that of unity among ourselves.  By this all will know that we belong to Him—by the bond that exists between us, and the care we show for one another.

  May God Richly Bless You!

"Human beings are frail and foolish.  We have been told that grace is to be found in the universe, but in our human foolishness and short-sightedness, we imaging grace to be finite, and for tis reason, we tremble. But the moment comes when our eyes are opened and we see that grace is infinite.  Grace demands nothing from us but that we awit it with confidence, and acknowledge it with gratitude.  Grace makes not conditions and singles out none of us, in particular.  Grace takes us all to its bosom and prclaims a general amnesty."

~~Isak Dinesen--ne: Karen Christine Dinesen, Danish author~~

To view a video of this week's Holy Mass, click here: 


Thy Word.docx


Edited by Father Michael
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