Sunday, Jan. 24, is the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C).
Mass Readings: Nehemiah 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19:8-10, 15; 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 or 12:12-14, 27; Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Last week was one kind of beginning: Today is another. Last week we heard the story of Jesus’ first public miracle at a wedding feast; today we find him in the synagogue. Last week we saw him proclaim himself with actions; today he proclaims himself with words.
To emphasize that we are dealing with a beginning, the Gospel starts in the opening lines of the Gospel of Luke, then skips three chapters to hear Jesus reading words in the synagogue: “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.”
He must have read it with authority and deep meaning, because the Gospel tells us all eyes are on him as he sits back down. It is there, in his chair, that he says, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Nowadays, that would be called a “mic drop.”
The reading, though, reminds us of the necessity of both kinds of beginnings. We see this often in Jesus’ life. He had one beginning in the manger at Christmas; he had another with the presentation in the Temple. He cleansed lepers, but also found it necessary to cleanse the Temple. He offered his life on the cross; but only after he had offered it in the liturgy of the Eucharist.
We see in the first reading, from Nehemiah, that this is a rhythm long ingrained in God’s people. First, Ezra reads them the words of the Law. Then he says, “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks. … Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”
The people are to rejoice in the Law, first in assembly and then by proclaiming their joy in it with a feast. We are blessed as Catholics because we have made this a part of our life cycle.
We each have two beginnings: one in the labor-and-delivery room and one at the baptismal font. Our marriages begin in the Church, but also on our honeymoon. Our sorrow for sin begins in the disappointments in our lives and ends in a confessional in the church.
The sacramental system reminds us of the majesty of our lives as human beings made in the infinite dignity of the likeness of God by insuring that we see our life stages play out in the Church.
This is also meant to remind us that the reverse is true, too: Our Church actions need to be mirrored in our lives outside of the Church.
We are Christ’s body, St. Paul reminds us. We come to him at Mass to be fed and bonded to Christ so that we can leave and be Christ to others in the rest of our lives.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.