Like it was just for me!

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Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Recently on a Sunday morning,
as I was saying goodbye at the door after Mass,
one man shook my hand and said,
“Father, I’ve been a way from church for a long time
and this was exactly the day I was supposed to come back!
The readings, the music, the homily –
it was like it was all meant just for me!”

Those are sweet words for a pastor’s ears and I hear them quite often.
And each time I do, I become aware again of how God’s Spirit moves
in the scriptures, in our prayer together, in the music, in a homily –
how God’s Spirit moves and touches the hearts of individual people.

Consider that the scriptures rotate through a three-year calendar
which none of us controls;
that the music we sing on a given Sunday
is usually planned a couple months in advance;
and that when I write my homily I write for the people I expect to see,
not for the ones I don’t think will be there.
And yet somehow the Spirit of God uses all of this with such grace
that someone coming back to Church
finds his heart and mind touched so deeply that it seems
the whole service had been put together just for him.

I hope you’ve had an experience like that,
a time when a scripture reading, or a particular song, or a homily
reached you right where you needed God to touch you,
a time when something in our prayer together moved you,
maybe even healed you, in just the way you needed to be assured
that God is paying attention to you and your life and your prayer.

Perhaps that was the experience Jesus had
in the synagogue in Nazareth.
The gospel tells us it was his custom to go to there to teach and to pray.
But on this particular day, when Jesus takes his turn to read,
he’s handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah
and as he hears the words he proclaims he knows, he trusts,
that the Spirit of God is upon him,
that he’s the anointed one, sent to bring good news,
that in him the words of Isaiah are being fulfilled.
Jesus himself is having that same experience,
“This is meant for me!”

This is also the story being told in today’s first scripture.
The people of his time have drifted away from the Lord’s word
and his ways and his law and Ezra is calling them back.
And listen to what he says: TODAY is the day holy to the Lord your God!
TODAY is the day to rejoice and to lean on the Lord’s strength.

Let go your sadness and your weeping and your tears
because this day is for YOU!

But I’ll bet there were people listening to Ezra who scoffed at him
and walked away.
Or perhaps there were some there so lost in their sadness
that they couldn’t believe
that God would ever say or do something – just for them.
And among those in the synagogue in Nazareth
who heard Jesus take Isaiah’s words to speak of himself,
I’m sure there were some who rolled their eyes and whispered,
“Well, will ya get a load of him!  Who does he think he is?"

Are we the skeptics?
Or do we come to prayer hoping, expecting, trusting
that God has a word, a blessing for each of us?

Now you might scoff or roll your eyes at me when I tell you
that in the scripture readings, in the music of our prayer,
in homilies you hear preached
and especially in the sacrament of this altar,
there are moments every week when the Lord says or does something
-- just for you, for every one of you.

The lector, the cantor, the choir, the preacher –
we will have no idea how the Lord wants to touch you
with his word and his presence, his comfort and challenge,
but I believe deeply that every time we gather here,
there’s something in our prayer just for me
and something just for you:
that every Sunday is a day holy to the Lord our God
when he calls us out of our sadness and tears
to rejoice in him, in the strength he offers us;
that every Sunday what we hear in the scriptures
and sing in the psalms and pray in the Eucharist
is, as it was in Nazareth – fulfilled in our hearing.

I pray this morning that God’s word
and the songs we sing
and the sacrament we pray
will open you to the Lord’s presence so clearly that you will know
deep in your hearts and minds,
that he has spoken a word and done something gracious
-- just for you.


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