Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing (Lk 4:21)
This weekend, I baptized two infants and thus recall the Order of Baptism of Children (hereafter OBC): After the water is poured, there are explanatory rites (Anointing After Baptism, Clothing with a White Garment, Handing on the Lighted Candle, and the “Ephphatha”). I would like to highlight the last one. The celebrant touches the ears and mouth of each child with his thumb, saying: “May the Lord Jesus, who made the deaf to hear and the mute speak, grant that you may soon receive his word with your ears and profess the faith with your lips, to the glory and praise of God the Father. R. Amen.” (OBC no. 65). This explanatory rite captures the very essence of the “Sunday of the Word” instituted by Pope Francis in his Motu Proprio, Aperuit Illis on September 20, 2019.
As members of the One Body of Christ (which the second reading today described, specifically in 1Cor 12:8), through baptism you and I are to have a personal devotion to the Word of God and communal attentiveness to God’s Word. Both dimensions are important in the life of a disciple of Christ.
By personal devotion, God’s word must be at the center of each individual prayer, study, and reflection. Prayerfully study the Holy Scriptures is necessary. In this fashion, “the law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple,” (Ps19:8), said the Psalmist. St. Jerome, a patron of those who pondered on God’s Word, has this beautiful exhortation: “For if, as St. Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know the Scriptures does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” (CCL73, 1-3). While it is important to point out that the divine revelation is transmitted in the Church in both Scriptures and Tradition, the patron saint of biblical studies is right in pointing out that those who don’t know the Holy Scriptures miss out so much of the Lord! Therefore, crafted into the One Body of Christ by baptism, it is our duty to know, to love, and to serve the Lord. Our personal prayer, study, and reflection on the Holy Scriptures plays an indispensable role.
Then when it comes to the importance of hearing God’s Word publicly, the Gospel on this Sunday witnesses to this dimension. In fact, Jesus was a good example for us: “He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day” (Lk 4:16). Jesus entered the synagogue and together with the entire assembly proclaimed the Word. The Gospel today recorded what He proclaimed: “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” (Lk 4:18-19) At the end of the proclamation, Jesus said something that helps us realize the importance of proclaiming the Word in the public prayer of the Church, the liturgy, above all the Mass: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). The General Instructions of the Roman Missal no. 29 grasps onto the significance of Jesus saying: “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people and Christ present in his word, proclaims the Gospel.” Thus, proclaiming God’s Word in our liturgies is very profound: It is efficacious!
The efficacy of the proclaiming of God’s Word in an assembly was demonstrated in the first reading today. Ezra was among the people of God who returned from the Babylonian exile to rebuild their lives in the promised land. He “brought the law before the assembly” (Neb 8:2). The priest then “opened the scroll so that all the people might see it” and thus proclaimed God’s Word to them, “and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, ‘Amen, amen!’” (Neb 8:5-6). And “the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law” (Neb 8:9). This is the efficacy of the Word of the Lord: opening the mystery of God to them and casting light on them so they could rediscover their identity. As much as hearing the Word proclaimed was important to the Israelites then, it is just as important for us to gather in assembly, in the liturgy. In hearing God’s Word, we discover our identity as Church, the Body of Chris
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, prepare your hearts and souls every Sunday to hear God’s word. As Pope John Paul II said in his Dies Domini no. 40: Those who take part in the Eucharist –priest, ministers, and faithful . . . to prepare the Sunday liturgy, reflecting beforehand upon the word of God which will be proclaimed and adding that if we do not, “it is difficult for the liturgical proclamation of the word of God alone to produce the fruit we might expect.” Let us prepare our souls well before we attend the Mass by using all the fine publications such as Magnificat, Daily Missal, Daily Bread, etc… and along with the daily scriptural readings available for us via the usccb.org. The suggestion of the saintly pope brings together our personal devotion to the Word and importance of the communal proclamation of Holy Scriptures. Being faithful to this practice assures us the experience: “fulfilling our hearing.” Amen.