SR-2019-01-27

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C) – January 27, 2019



3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: “God’s Living Word in the Bible“.

We have a priceless gift from God with the inspired Books of the Bible. We are blessed to be able to use it to build up an essential lifesaving knowledge of the Christian faith which it teaches us. It is a fountain and source from which we can draw strength and refreshment in the daily practice of our Christian faith. Almost two thousand years ago, God’s infinite goodness provided us this source of strength, a “fountain of living water,” that is every bit appropriate and relevant today as it was the minute the Holy Spirit inspired its writing.

Reading 1 emphasizes that we are to “respect” God’s Word, understand its holiness, and its impact upon us for our salvation. The Responsorial Psalm identifies and defines the various types of Words used by God in the Bible as it states “Your Words Lord are Spirit and Life”. St. Paul, in Reading 2, identifies how there are many parts to our Church and that all must act together in order for us to embrace the Word of God. Jesus teaches us in the Gospel, that God’s Living Word, contained in the Scroll from which He reads, has now become “Flesh”, i.e. His being.

“The Word of God is the source of life and spirituality of the family.” (Synod on the Family)


Reading 1 Nehemiah 8:2-4a,5-6,8-10     Ezra reads from the Torah and interprets it for all to understand.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 19:8-10,15     A song in praise of the Word of the Lord.

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 12:12-30      Paul explains that all were baptized into the one body of Christ.

Gospel Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21     In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus reads aloud from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and announces that this Scripture is now fulfilled.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, CatholicCulture.org, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.

NOTE: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 


Reading 1     Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10               (Loving God’s Word)           

Context – Upon learning that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down Nehemiah (an officer of high rank in the royal court) asked the king for permission to return and rebuild them, and Artaxerxes sent him (and Ezra, the priest) to Judah as a governor of the province with a mission to rebuild the walls. Jerusalem had been conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC and Nehemiah finds it still in ruins. He manages to rebuild the walls to re-populate the city. He then purifies the Jewish community by enforcing its segregation from its neighbors and enforces the laws of Moses. After 12 years as governor, during which he ruled with justice and righteousness, he returned to the king in Susa. After some time in Susa he returned to Jerusalem, only to find that the people had fallen back into their evil ways. Greatly angered, he again purified the Temple and the priests and Levites and enforced the observance of the law of Moses.

Today’s Reading – When the Israelites returned from exile, not only had the cities to be rebuilt and the land restored, but also the people had to be “rebuild and restored” i.e. rededicated to God and His Word. Ezra, the priest/scribe, was entrusted with the spiritual renewal and rededication of God’s people. In today’s reading, Ezra is leading the people in a ‘covenant renewal’ ceremony, at the center of which is a long proclamation of God’s Word from the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament). This ceremony lasted from sunrise to midday! The people are very moved as they listen to God’s Word. Everyone is weeping. They realize how they have been unfaithful to God and how much they have missed hearing His Word. The rededication ceremony is concluded with a feast.


Ezra the priest brought the law [i] before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand [ii]. Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate [iii], he read out of the book from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform (Pulpit) that had been made for the occasion. He opened the scroll so that all the people might see it — for he was standing higher up than any of the people —; and, as he opened it, all the people rose [iv]. Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, “Amen, amen!” [v]. Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD, their faces to the ground. Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read. Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people: “Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep [vi]”— for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared [vii]; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 19:8-10, 15             (God’s Words are Spirit and Life)

This psalm celebrates the goodness and beauty of God’s law, which to the Israelites was the same as God’s Word. People learn of God’s plan to bless humankind through their reading and understanding of God’s Word.


R. – Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law
(commandments) of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul; The decree (rulings) of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.
R. – Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts
(principles/guidelines) of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The command (authority) of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye.
R. – Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD
[viii] is pure, enduring forever; The ordinances (regulations) of the LORD are true, all of them just.
R. – Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before You, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
R. – Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     1 Corinthians 12:12-30            (One Body)   

Context – Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. Paul started the Church at Corinth in 51 AD and stayed there only briefly to get things started. Five years after the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed to restore peace and unity by fortifying their commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians takes aim throughout at two vices that underlie the Corinthians’ struggles: pride and selfishness. His second letter to the Corinthians was written to prevent them from falling prey to false prophets.    

Today’s Reading – The Corinthian community was plagued by factions of varying kinds. In today’s reading, Paul is preaching unity without diminishing the value of diversity (Wow – what a novel way to deal with polarization!). Just as each of our physical body parts must work together to ensure the proper functioning of the whole body, so must all the members of the Church, the Body of Christ, work together. Mutual respect, cooperation and support should characterize the interaction among the members of the community.


Brothers and sisters: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. [ix] For in one [Holy] Spirit we were all baptized into one body [x], whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one [Holy] Spirit.

Now the body is not a single part, but many. [xi] If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as He intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. [xii]

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 


Gospel     Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21          (Proclaiming the Good News)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – Luke tells us that the information about the events of Jesus’ ministry was handed on to him by eyewitnesses (supposedly including St. Paul). Luke’s hope and desire is that his message will lead others to accept Jesus and surrender their lives to Him. Then we move to what is often called Jesus’ “Inaugural Address” or “Mission Statement”. Jesus uses verses from Isaiah to announce His Mission Statement. As the people listen, they should clearly realize that He is not going to be a political or military Messiah. Rather, He is going to be a servant who will proclaim, by word and deed, God’s love and concern for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the spiritually and physically handicapped. Jesus concludes by saying that He is the fulfillment of Israel’s Messianic expectations.


Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus [xiii],  so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.

Jesus returned to Galilee [xiv] in the power of the [Holy] Spirit, and news of Him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where He had grown up, and went according to His custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. [xv] He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. [xvi] He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “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.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

Rolling up the scroll, He handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at Him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” [xvii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Isn’t it interesting that the scroll that was handed to Jesus just happened to be the one containing Isaiah 62:1-2!! This was done by the counsel and direction of God, that Jesus might show from Isaiah that He was the Messiah described by that prophet. “The Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed, the New is in the Old concealed.” – St. Augustine.  

Catechism 1286 – In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for His saving mission. The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at His baptism by John the Baptist was the sign that this was He who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; His whole life and His whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives Him “without measure.” 



[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
“the law” = The law is found in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). It contains the early history of the Jewish people and the blessings and curses associated with their covenant with God.
[ii]  “old enough to understand” = For “understand” to mean – old enough to use reason, some assume it to be 7 years or older. For “understand” to mean – old enough to be accountable, some assume it to be 13. This being the age when Jesus went up to Jerusalem with His parents and was found in the temple.
[iii]  “Water Gate” = The gates of ancient cities were important as a means of providing access to the city while maintaining security. The location of the Water Gate is at the southwestern corner of Jerusalem. It is near the start of a tunneled waterway that was fed by a spring providing water to the city.
[iv]  “all the people arose” = They arose out of respect, as we do while the gospel is read at Mass. In our culture, standing is a sign of respect; it is a position of attentiveness, readiness, alertness. We also stand at prayer – “we remind ourselves of the grace given to us by standing at prayer, … because we rose with Christ, and are bound to ‘seek those things which are above.’” – St Basil.
[v]  “Amen, amen” = When we say it, as the assembly of people did in our Reading 1, it means, “Truly, truly; I believe; I truly believe”. It is a solemn affirmation, a covenant oath – “I hear and I obey”; “May it be so in accordance with the will of God”. However, when Jesus uses this double “Amen” at the beginning of His proclamations, He is about to say something He considers very adamant, and He means – “I assure you …”; “Listen-up, this is important …”.
[vi]  “weep” = They are weeping because they know how impossible it is to keep all the commands of the Law and how horrible are the curses for disobeying the covenant.
[vii]  Share in a common meal = A meal can be a special sign of love and that the parties involved are in fellowship with each other. Having meals with other believers, therefore, is a good way to further peace among the brethren and to show a hurting world the love we have for each other.
[viii]  Responsorial Psalm Footnote:
“fear of the Lord” = Psalm 34 states, to fear the Lord – “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit, depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it”. Learn about Him, Love Him in good times and in bad, be obedient to Him, trust and hope in Him, tell others about Him, hate evil.
[ix]  Reading 2 Footnotes:
 Body of Christ = The Church is the body of Christ.
[x]  “baptized into one body” = Baptism incorporates the individual into the risen, glorified body of Christ. It places an indelible mark on the soul just as circumcision made a visible mark under the Old Covenant.
[xi]   The body has many parts = This is the key phrase to this whole reading – Just as the human body needs different members, so the Church needs a diversity of spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows upon us in a way that He so chooses for each one of us. Therefore, each one of us, using our Holy Spirit’s gifts, makes specific contributions to the common good; the health of the body (the Church).
[xii]  “suffer together … rejoice together” = Unity among believers rules out indifference towards others and encourages mutual respect and compassion among them.
[xiii]  Gospel Footnotes:
“Theophilus”
= Imitating the Greek writers of his time, Luke begins his Gospel by addressing his message to a particular person, named Theophilus. He was most likely a friend of Luke and a wealthy patron.
[xiv]  “Jesus returned to Galilee” = This is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Just prior to this He was baptized and was tempted in the desert.
[xv]  He went to the Synagogue on the Sabbath Day = He went to the place that He had been brought up. Our upbringing is an important thing in our life. We find that Jesus was accustomed to going to the Synagogue on the Sabbath. He had been reared in a godly home – The Holy Family – JMJ!
[xvi]  Jesus was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah = In ancient Israel it was customary in the Synagogue for a “common” Israelite to read from the Torah on the Sabbath Day. And any person who considered himself qualified to preach was at liberty to do so. So, Jesus must have requested to be the Reader. The passage was Isaiah 61:1-2. This is where the prophet announces the coming of a Messiah who will free the people from all their afflictions.
[xvii]  “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” = Again, as mentioned above at Footnote 16, what was customary in the Synagogue, Acts 13:15 explains how “common” Israelites were allowed to “preach”. It states that when St. Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch, “the synagogue officials sent word to them, saying: “My brothers, if one of you has a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”. Using this as a basis for customary Synagogue practices, we can assume that Jesus was also allowed to “speak” – to preach.