Sunday, Jan. 24, is the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle II).
Jan. 25 at 5:30pm, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
Jan. 25, Conversion of St. Paul: There are three places to find the story of the conversion of St. Paul in the Bible. Open them up, and show them to the kids: Acts 9:1-22, Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 26:9-18. The first two are options for the day’s first reading at Mass. They stress the role of Ananias and the aftermath of Paul’s conversion experience. The last reading gives just the drama of the moment Paul had his vision of Our Lord. To find great art depicting this to show your children, do an online search of: conversion of St. Paul.
Jan. 26, Sts. Timothy and Titus: It is fitting that, the day after the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, we celebrate two of his disciples who also became saints. Show the kids that each had a letter addressed to them in the Bible.
Jan. 28, St. Thomas Aquinas: The day for the patron saint of students comes soon after students return from Christmas break. Tom’s syllabus for his “Christianity and Mass Media” class for this day compares St. Thomas’ confident approach to truth — he isn’t afraid to treat his opponents’ arguments fairly — to the phenomenon of media bias — in which reporters, insecure in their beliefs, try to manipulate reality to cover for them.
Jan. 30, St. Bathildas: Online, search the words: January saints. Click on the saints page of “Holy Spirit Interactive.” This is our favorite way to find saints stories, and today’s saint is a great story. Bathildas is kidnapped by pirates, sold as a slave, married by a king, then enters the convent as a widow queen.
Nehemiah 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10; Psalms 19:8-10, 15; 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 or 12:12-14, 27; Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Today’s readings show us three meanings of the biblical phrase “the Word became flesh.”
1. The Word of God is the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, as the opening of the Gospel of John describes. This “Word of God” became flesh in the womb of Mary when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
2. The word of God is the content of the Scriptures, the words inspired by the Holy Spirit to guide us in living in grace. This “word of God” “becomes flesh,” in an analogous way, in those who hear the word of God, believe it — and keep it.
3. Combining Nos. 1 and 2, Christ takes this all one step further. By being baptized into Jesus, the Word of God, and by following the way of life outlined in the Scriptures, we actually become the body of Christ — the enfleshed Word of God!
The Old Testament readings are about the importance of God’s word — and how it “became flesh” in the community of believers. In the first reading, we hear about how the prophet Nehemiah read the Torah out loud to his people. First, he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. Then he gathered all the community. The crowd listened to the Law, with commentaries, for six hours, prostrating themselves in reverence. After the experience of turning their backs on God and suffering exile as a result, they knew the power of God’s word.
The Psalm invites us to join them in their enthusiastic reaction, and declare: “Your words, Lord, are spirit and life.”
In the second reading, “The Word became flesh” takes on an entirely new meaning. By joining Christ in his mission, we become extensions of him in the world — his hands, his feet, his eyes and ears.
The Gospel sums all of this up by integrating the three meanings of “Word of God.”
Jesus reads from the Old Testament and applies the prophecies about the Messiah to himself. But notice how the reading starts: St. Luke tells the “most excellent Theophilus” that he has investigated the life of Christ and plans to write it down. The Church had to go to great lengths to create this Gospel reading, marrying a passage from the beginning of the Gospel of Luke to a passage four chapters in. The liturgy thus shows us that the very Gospel we are reading comes from the community of believers speaking to each other in the context of their shared baptismal life in Christ.
Thus, today the Liturgy of the Word uses the word of God written by the community of Christ to show how the word of God was made flesh in Christ — in hopes of making the Word of God flesh again in you.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.