Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C. 27-01-2019 by Fr. Lubem, osj.
First Reading: Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10
Psalm: Psalm 19:8-10, 15
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Gospel: Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Many years after the Babylonian exile, the children of Israel are still without any sense of purpose and direction, and there is so much evil in their land. It is to this effect that the King of Persia sends the priest scribe Ezra to unite and organize the people. And Ezra quickly realizes that the deplorable state of Israel was due to the fact that the people had failed to keep the law of the Lord, not deliberately but out of ignorance. This prompts him to bring the Book of the Law and read it before the assembly of the people, to remind them of the will of the Lord contained in His word. The people heard and realizing how far they had departed from the ways of the Lord, were filled with remorse and wept. However, he exhorted them not to mourn but to rejoice in the Lord because the joy of the Lord is their stronghold.
The question we should ask ourselves is why is the law so important to this people, when many people think that to live under the law is not to be free? The Law gives direction in life, and without direction our life is meaningless. This counters the big lie of our time that happiness can be found outside the Lord who is the first law giver. Israel as a nation holds the law so dear to her heart because she first received the law from God when He handed over to Moses the Decalogue in Exodus 20:2-7. And God’s gifts to us His children are always for good as expressed by our responsorial psalm today from psalm 19: - the law of the Lord is perfect, it revives the soul. The rule of the Lord is to be trusted, it gives wisdom to the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, they gladden the heart. The command of the Lord is clear, it gives light to the eyes… So we need the law of the Lord to understand His will that will give us a sense of purpose and direction in life.
How can we then know the will of the Lord if not in His word? This is why it is important for us to hear the word of the Lord during the liturgy. How many of us are always willing to hear the word of God and know His will for our lives and do what His word says? Today it is Jesus Himself who reads the portion of Isaiah 61:1-2, as His inaugural speech and says that the text is being fulfilled in our hearing today. This points to the fact that Jesus has come not to abolish the law but to fulfil it. So the word of God should always be received by us in joy and not in gloom since it sets us free. The Law of God is not something that is restrictive but it has a liberating force. But how many of us view the laws of God in this manner? Some people in our times have demanded a freedom from all codes of moral conduct beginning with the commands of God. Are you one of them? How happy are these people? It is only obedience to the laws of God as contained in His word that can set us free. Scripture expresses this so well when it says ‘so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ (Jn.8:36). And Christ in His mission statement today has come to set us free – the poor who receive the good news are set free from poverty, the captives are liberated, the blind receive sight, the downtrodden are uplifted. All these shall come to us if we keep the law of the Lord, allowing His love to motivate our lives in all that we do. And when we allow the love of the Lord to motivate us, even our charisms are put into use for the good of all and not for rivalry as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading. How do we use our gifts? Proper use of our gifts must necessarily liberate those suffering around us, and lead to unity amongst us. Whenever there is misuse of our gifts, it leads to disunity and the whole body of Christ suffers. We must not suffer Christ’s suffer.
Today that Christ the anointed Son of God is setting us free, we also who have received God’s Holy Spirit by adoption through baptism are called to go out and liberate those who are suffering in all ramifications too. ‘For God’s Spirit is not a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self-control’ (2 Tim.1:7). As we have received His Spirit, we must make use of it. So as He sets us free from all ills holding us back, may we also be strengthened by His same Spirit to go out and set free our brothers and sisters who are suffering. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.