From: The Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert (https://christdesert.org)
FIRST READING Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand. Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate, 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 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. Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, “Amen, amen!” 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” 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; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”
SECOND READING 1 Corinthians 12:12-30
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. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. 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. 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?
GOSPEL Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
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, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the 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. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. 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. 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.”
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
The Word of God is awesome! The Word of God is powerful! The Word of God is life changing! The power of the readings this Sunday compels us to determine in our hearts what the Scriptures mean to us. If we are truly believing Catholics, the Scriptures are the Word of God given for our salvation. It is important that we take time to read them and to digest them as the Church leads us through them in yearly cycles and toward them doctrinally. We can ruminate over the scriptures, remembering the source of the word ‘ruminate,’ that of a cow chewing and extracting all nutrients from its cud. Many people today have only a handed down religion which has not become a personal religion, lived out in complete faith. Incessantly, this is what the Lord is asking of us: believe in the Gospel!
The Prophet Nehemiah describes the fascination and relief of the Hebrews toward the once-lost-now-found text of the Law of the Jewish Scriptures. The people weep as they hear Ezra it read aloud to them. We use our imaginations and evoke a conquered people who had been taken into exile. When they find something that draws them nearer to their origins, deep emotions surface. In past and present times, the Word read aloud moves people and fills the voids in their hearts. Hollywood gives a contemporary example of the power of the read word.
The actress Kate Winslet in her Oscar winning performance portrays an illiterate, Nazi-era German woman in the movie, The Reader (2008), whose insatiable thirst for words read aloud (in this case, classic literature) excelled even her passion for her paramour who reads to her. Her character thirsted for words from literary works that she could not decrypt.
Not surprisingly, reading aloud to thirsting souls features prominently in our lives as monks. During meal times The Rule of St. Benedict exhorts us that “at the meals of the brethren there should not fail to be reading; nor should the reader be anyone who may chance to take up the book; but let there be a reader for the whole week who shall enter upon his office on Sunday.” The reading aloud of holy texts is spiritually edifying and builds up the body of Christ.
We are now Christ’s body and, individually, we comprise the parts that make the whole. The different parts have different roles and functions. There is not to be division between the parts, for we are one body. We are to appreciate the gifts of the different parts of the body, understanding where deficiency is matched with strength. We must be those people who can listen to the Lord Jesus with our ears and know that He is truly God and that all of prophecy is fulfilled in Him and His Church. We must recognize that together we form the body of Christ. We are the feet, hands and eyes of Christ present in our world today: bringing God to others because God has come into our lives.
Saint Luke recollects events so that they will not be lost and so that people can better understand Jesus. This account helps us understand how people in the time of Jesus, and shortly after the time of Jesus, understood Him. In our modern era, we do not underestimate a congregation’s appreciation of the lector who thoroughly and meticulously prepares his or her reading for Mass. Can you imagine Jesus reading aloud in the Synagogue from the Prophet Isaiah–and then telling the people that this Scripture passage is fulfilled in their hearing. Surely the people must have been dumbstruck by his delivery and his message!
We can see from these scriptural passages that readers and proclaimers of the word are integral to the Body of Christ’s Church. In whichever capacity we encounter the Word, as an ear, or a mouth, or hands, or feet, let the Word live in us and move us and others toward salvation.