Jeremiah 17: 5-6I Corinthians 15: 12, 16-20Luke 6: 17, 20-26
It is reasonable to understand that during the two and half or so years of his ministry Jesus presented his basic teachings in different ways. What we heard today, for example, in St. Luke’s account of what we call the “Beatitudes”, is different than the more familiar format given by St. Matthew.
Both summaries of Jesus’ teaching, however, lay before us simple insights into a fuller appreciation of our relationship with our loving God that are found in the values that each expresses.
The challenge that Jesus offers to us, as it is recorded by St. Luke, reminds us that what society – the society of Jesus’ time or of our own time – often values most: wealth, security, pleasure, social approval, is meaningless, warrant rejection, and is really a source of woe, or grief.. On the other hand what society – either Jesus’ society or our own – fears or ignores or rejects: poverty, hunger, sadness, oppression, can truly be a source of blessedness, value and worth.
But why is this so, we might easily ask. It does not make sense to us. As we listen to God speak to us through the Scriptures today we can find the key to understanding the teachings of Jesus by considering the words of the prophet Jeremiah. Like Jesus, Jeremiah presents a contrast. He says that reliance on what is fleeting: wealth, food, satisfaction, human praise, makes a person like a barren shrub in the wasteland. It is present. It is visible. But it is dry, brittle and lifeless. Trust in God, confidence placed in God rather than in self and self-will and what we want and how we want it, will keep us going and give us hope. It will make us to be like a fruitful tree planted by water that does not fear heat or drought. It is alive and green.
Such trust and such hope Is not always easy. What is immediate, What is instantaneously gratifying. What is now. This is often more appealing. But what Jesus is teaching us is that we must open our eyes and broaden our perspective.
A further insight in this regard can be found in what we heard from St. Paul today. Some at Corinth had doubts about what was the basis for their faith in Jesus Christ: that he had overcome death and had risen from the dead. For some, what was immediate and what was evident appeared to be much more attractive. But as Paul points out, if that was all Jesus was teaching, if all he was concerned about was the here and now, and there was no conquest of death in resurrection, that teaching would be meaningless.
True value in life, true value in being alive now, finds its strength in faith in the Resurrection. No matter what we might face, even if it be poverty, hunger, loss or rejection, in whatever way we are united to the total gift of Christ on the cross, all is overcome by faith in he Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all is overcome by a firm conviction and trust in the endless presence of a good and gracious God.
Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19 1 Corinthians 13: 4-13 Luke 4: 21-30
There may not be more appropriate passages from Scripture for us to hear today as we undertake in our Diocese the annual appeal for Catholic Charities. Our best understanding of the Scriptures that we hear at Mass is to hear them as God speaking to us today through inspired writers. This is the God of our Faith calling on us to hear an appeal being made to us to understand who and what we are and what we are to do as those who profess a firm belief and trust in Jesus Christ, God among us, on behalf of our world and our community.
The words we heard today from Saint Paul may be familiar and often quoted. In a plain and straightforward way he addressed a community of believers who were divided into many factions: Jews and Greeks, rich and poor, slave and free. He reminded them in no uncertain terms, what it was to be a believer in Jesus Christ. He not only declares that love, that charity, is what is to be most evident in how they were to live out their lives, he also spells out specifically, how that love, that charity was to be perceived and known. Love is known by patience and kindness. Love is not rude, nor jealous, nor self-seeking. Love gives evidence of hope and neither fails or falls short in what it can do. That community to which Paul was writing was to be different from those that were around it. We, too, need to be different in so many of the values, so many of the attitudes, that are proclaimed around us today. Specifically, there is no clearer demonstration of what we can do and how we make that love, that charity, both active and present as a church and as a community that through support of our diocesan Catholic Charities Appeal.
Today, however, we not only have the words written by Saint Paul to consider, but also those words recorded as having been spoken by both Jeremiah and Jesus. Jeremiah laments that he has been called to be a prophet. He was to speak the truth about God’s presence and about the response that is to be made to that presence. He knew, because he had experienced it, that he would face rejection and ridicule. But he was told to be string and persistent in responding to his call to prophecy.
Jesus, we are told, was in his hometown. His neighbors and others thought they knew him. They felt that he should know his place and they wanted to remind him of this. He was to reveal to them, however, that his presence was beyond their prejudices and judgements. He sought to reveal to them that God’s presence with them was far beyond their limited expectations,
We, too, are called to be prophets. We who are the Body of Christ in our world today are to announce by our words and, especially, by our actions the presence of God in our world. We are to announce by our words and actions how God is to be experienced in ways that are far beyond the expectations of so many. We are to announce how God is experienced through us in kindness, in patience, in home, in generosity.
Perhaps this is not easy. Perhaps this, too, can be subject to rejection and ridicule, doubt and skepticism. But, in Catholic Charities we have a concrete way of demonstrating the presence, the reality and, most especially, the faith and trust we place in a good and gracious God.
Nehemiah 8: 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27 Luke 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21
It became more and more clear to me as I was reading over and thinking about the passage from the Book of Nehemiah that we have heard that what was recorded in this reading is directly related to what we do when we gather together for the celebration of the Eucharist. Consider this: the people had assembled together. Jerusalem had been restored following its destruction and the exile of its leaders. First they listened to the Word of God as Ezra read from the “Law” the term used to describe the “Torah,” the first five books of the Bible as we know it. They are told to rejoice and then are urged to eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks.
So it is that we do week after week. We hear the Word of God, the Scriptures. Then we feed upon the richest of foods, the sweetest of drinks in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that he gave to us in memory of himself.
As we do this today, we also hear of the beginning of the ministry of Jesus as it is presented to us by the Gospel-writer, the Evangelist, Saint Luke. God with us, in the person of Jesus Christ, announces how his ministry will seek to restore our relationship with God as it was destroyed by sin and mankind was exiled from God. He uses the words of Isaiah to describe his mission.
He is to bring glad tings to the poor. This does not mean those who are necessarily poor in material goods, but those who are impoverished as human beings through fear, anxiety and distress. That poverty is overcome by the calming assurance Christ demonstrates of God’s love for all mankind. Jesus proclaims liberty to captives, to those enslaved by envy, jealousy, prejudice or indifference.Jesus announces by his life that the real value of every persons is found in God’s unlimited love and mercy.
Jesus declares the recovery of sight to the blind, to those whose sight has been distorted or blocked by selfishness and self imposed limitation to or disbelief of the value and worth of themselves or others. It is the conviction that the limitless love of God is found in Jesus Christ that opens our vision to all the possibilities before us.
Finally, in letting the oppressed go free whatever burdens, whatever restrictions there might be in life are lifted by an awareness of being loved and cared for by God as is revealed in the words and actions of Jesus Christ.
This is the ministry of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul also reminds us today that this is our ministry as well. It is a ministry shared with one another, with those with whom we gather sharing our common faith, our common commitment. Doing so makes us one as the Body of Christ in our world of today.
We join with one another now in worship, hearing our God in Word and being nourished by our God in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is in this manner that we are strengthened and encourage in proclaiming a year, a time, a moment that is truly acceptable to our good and gracious God.
Isaiah 62: 1-51 Corinthians 12: 4-11John 2: 1-11
I suspect that this passage from the Gospel of Saint John is one of the favorite miracle stories from the New Testament. I have frequently heard references to it along with a sighing “if only” this could happen.
Saint John built his account of the Gospel message around different “signs” that were performed by Jesus. “Signs” were wondrous deeds that revealed the nature and the role of Jesus as Messiah and Savior in our presence. In this first public demonstration of what Jesus was about and what he was to do as the Word-made-flesh, as God with us, he reveals that he is in our world to make known the loving presence of God.
Jesus is in the world to accomplish for us the rich symbolism of restoration that we heard from the prophet Isaiah. Like Jerusalem that had been destroyed and left desolate by those who had conquered it, humanity, mankind, we ourselves, longed for restoration of the union and relationship with God that has been harmed by sin, by the rejection of God, Now, through Jesus Christ, we could experience that relationship once again. We were to “be espoused,” made whole again, in a union with God such as is reflected in the intimacy of true marriage.
Giving consideration to the imagery in this account, we night do well to think of ourselves as water. Gathered in a jar, water is naturally refreshing. But it also lacks the richness and vitality of wine. Gathered together as we are in the jars that are life, we can be transformed. We can be given depth and richness because of the action and presence of Christ. Through Christ the water of our lives can take on the richness, the vitality, the genuine refreshment of wine that comes from a union with our Creator God.
We are the water transformed into wine by the presence of Christ and, as a result, we can reflect the love of our God in our liver, each in our own way. By each one of us employing the gifts, the abilities we possess in simply the way we go about living and in ways differing from one another but found in each one of us, we can reveal the presence of the goodness of God.
We can understand this first “sign” in the Gospel of Saint John as a real introduction to the whole ministry and mission of Jesus. It is a call made to us to be open to being transformed by his message, to being changed from common water into rich wine as children of our loving Father.
Jesus, according to John, began his ministry at the celebration of a wedding. God has come into our world to celebrate with us the possibility of being in a relationship with God and so reveal God more clearly in and through us. Like the water that was transformed we are able to be transformed through Christ’s presence with us. It is this presence that we share now in the Eucharist so that we might go forth from hear to reveal and to reflect our truly good and gracious God.