Homily for January 24

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

Audio for homily

We’re still doing today what Ezra did in ancient times.
We’re still gathering an assembly of the people, young and old
and we’re still standing on a wooden platform, as Ezra did.
As Ezra opened a scroll, we open a book
and like Ezra we lift it up high for all to see,
and we read aloud from word of the Lord
and interpret it in the hope that all will understand its contents.
(One significant difference between then and now
is that Ezra read and preached - and the people listened -
“from daybreak until midday.”  I only go about 8 minutes

As Ezra did, and as our readers do, so Jesus
unrolled the scroll, he opened the book, if you will,
and read the passage of Isaiah and “interpreted” it by saying,
I’m the one of whom Isaiah writes.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
and has anointed me to bring good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives,
recovery of sight to the blind
and freedom to the oppressed;
to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Now, it would be a lot easier for us
if Isaiah had written and Jesus had read something along these lines:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me
that I might be happy and healthy;
that I might be content, fulfilled and satisfied;
that all my problems might be small and easily solved;
that no harm come my way;
and that this might be a new year acceptable to me.

That’s often just what we hope and how we pray.
We hope that’s what our faith might bring us
what the Spirit’s anointing might bring to our lives.
But every one of us who is baptized
has a share in the job description detailed in Isaiah’s real words,
which Jesus appropriated for himself.

• So, it’s our work, yours and mine,
to serve and bring good news to the poor
(and the Lord knows there are plenty of ways to do that
right in our own parish).

• It’s our, yours and mine,  work to proclaim liberty and freedom
for those held captive and oppressed
(not only our attitude towards refugees around the world
and at our borders
but also for those held captive by our anger, grudges and resentments).

• It’s our work, yours and mine,
to bring recovery of sight to the blind
(to provide for the physically challenged , yes -
but also to share the light of the vision we hold dear
with those whom we see walking in their own darkness).

• And it’s our work, yours and mine,
to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord
(which, this year 2016, is Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy
calling each of us to search our hearts to see
how we might show mercy first to those in our own lives,
to families and friends, colleagues and neighbors).

As Jesus identified himself in the words of Isaiah - so must we.
Next week we’ll hear the conclusion of this scene in the gospel.
But I’ll give you a little preview…
The people hearing Jesus first praise him -
but the more he speaks, the less accepting they become
- until they finally run him out of town
and try to throw him off a cliff.
(Having the anointing of God’s Spirit upon you
doesn’t always lead to a bed of roses…)

For Jesus, these words of his were his first steps towards the Cross.
And we have been anointed, you and I, by the same Spirit.
We have been called to the same work.
We are walking the same path.
We are not followers of One who had it easy all the time
but rather we walk in the footsteps of the One
who came to know and understand himself
in giving, out of love, for others - everything he had, even to death.
We're only three weeks into this new year
so it’s not too late yet for us to consider, to ask ourselves,
“Will my new year be a year acceptable to the Lord?"
To ask:
"How is God’s Spirit prodding me, nudging me, leading me

to serve the poor, to bring good news to others
to bring the light of truth
to those who walk in darkness
at home, at work, at school, in my neighborhood, in my parish?"

And as a community of believers, we need to ask the same question:
"How is God’s Spirit prodding, nudging, leading us, as a parish,
to shape a year acceptable to the Lord,
a year in which we become, more and more,
faithful to the job description in Isaiah, and to the gospel of Jesus.

This kind of talk led Jesus to the brink of being thrown off a cliff.
It leads us first, thank God, not to a cliff but to the Lord’s table,
where he nourishes us with his life in the gifts of the Eucharist,
the sacrament of the altar of the Cross.

May this gift open us, each of us and all of us as a parish,
to receive the anointing of the Spirit
and to live a year acceptable to the Lord.


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