3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

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VOX (5:40) What the best inaugural addresses have in common

RELATED VIDEO: Inaugural Addresses Have Defined Presidencies: A Look Back

Jesus’ Inaugural Address

The conventional wisdom is that every homily should begin with a story to capture the congregation’s attention and to introduce the theme. Here is one example. Visit Fr. Tony’s website for a whole lot more. 

Fr. Tony’s Eight Minute Homilies

Every single Inaugural Address from George Washington’s to Joseph Biden’s has been preserved. In these speeches, presidents have laid out for the country their dreams, goals, and aspirations.

  • Here is a part of the speech given by our first president, George Washington (April 30, 1789), when he bravely acknowledged the role of God in his administration: He said, “It would be improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being Who rules over the universe, Who presides in the councils of nations, and Whose providential aids can supply every human defect.”
  • Franklin Roosevelt said on March 4, 1933, “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly.”
  • Americans remember the role of citizens outlined in President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address (January 20, 1961), “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. …. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
  • More recently we call to mind Ronald Reagan’s American Song theme in 1985: “hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic – daring, decent and fair. That’s our heritage, that’s our song… we raise our voices to the God who is the author of this most tender music.”

No doubt you were able to identify several of the presidents by the historical references or by the famous lines, and while all of these Inaugural Addresses are important, some are moving, inspiring and worthy of remembrance.

Today in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4, we have listened to an “inaugural address” delivered not to a Nation but to a synagogue congregation; not in an American city but in a poor village, Nazareth, in Galilee; and not by a man elected by the power of the people but by the God-man Jesus, anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit; Jesus outlines his mission, vision and dreams in this famous reflection and teaching.

MORE ILLUSTRATIONS

# 1: Saint Oscar Romero’s “option for the poor.” Speaking in the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus used Isaiah’s prophetic terms, long since seen as referring to the coming Messiah, to describe his own mission “to bring Good News to the poor.” The success of Jesus’ mission, particularly with the poor who had no political power except that conferred by their sheer numbers, made Jesus a “dangerous” person to the religious authorities of Israel and eventually resulted in crucifixion.  The Christian Gospel is still dangerous when its truth is really put into practice. This is clearly seen in the case of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was assassinated while he was celebrating Mass because, like Jesus, he reminded people of the needs of the poor and the oppressed in El Salvador. The story began in 1979 when a young priest, Father Grande, was shot and killed on the streets of El Salvador. His “crime” was that he spoke out against the government, which brutally suppressed all forms of protests and executed thousands of innocent people using its notorious “Death Squads.” When Fr. Grande’s great friend, Bishop Oscar Romero, was chosen to be the new Archbishop, the authorities thought he would keep quiet on the question of the oppressed poor in that country. Instead, Archbishop Oscar Romero became an outspoken defender of the poor and a critic of the state-supported “Death Squads.” To honor the memory of his martyred friend, Romero refused to appear in any public ceremonies sponsored by the army or the government. He soon became the voice and conscience of El Salvador. His words and actions were reported throughout the whole world, so that everybody knew the atrocities happening in El Salvador. Romero’s fight for human rights led to his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. On March 24, 1980, at 6:25 PM, as the Archbishop was offering Mass in a hospital Chapel, a shot from the back of the Church struck him in the chest, killing him instantly. Thus, Archbishop Oscar Romero died a martyr for the Gospel of Christ. He was beatified May 23, 2015 by Cardinal Angelo Amato representing Pope Francis and canonized by Pope Francis October 14, 2018, with the designation “Bishop and Martyr.” — As we reflect today on Jesus’ words about his mission, let us remember Saint Oscar Romero and continue to strive to live out faithfully in our world and in our daily lives the “dangerous” truths of the “Good News” which is Jesus’ gift to us today. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 2: God’s surprise message to three powerful presidents: There is a story about God calling the world’s three most powerful Presidents for a meeting: Presidents coming from Russia, China and U.S.A. God told them one thing: “The world will end by the year 2023 The three Presidents went to their respective countries and told their people about what God had told them. The Russian President said: “My dear people, I have two messages to give, both of them are bad news. First, God is real and second, the world will end by the year 2023.” The President of China announced to his people, “My dear people, I have two important messages for you, one unbelievable and one horrible. The unbelievable message is that God is real. The horrible message is that this God is so fed up with our world that He wants to destroy it.” The American President appeared in the national television to speak to the Americans. He said: “My dear people I have three messages to convey to you, all of them are good news. First, God is still in control of the world. Second, He talked to your President directly. And the third is, our world will end by the year 2023 and all our problems will be over.”– In today’s Gospel Jesus stands up in his native synagogue and announces the Good News of a loving, liberating and saving God. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 3: Liberation theology of Martin Luther King, Jr: As a Christian pastor, King’s main influence in his fights for the liberation of his people was Jesus Christ and the Christian Gospels, which he would almost always quote in his religious meetings, speeches at Church, and in public discourses. King’s Faith was strongly based in Jesus’ commandment of loving your neighbor as yourselves, loving God above all, and loving your enemies, praying for them and blessing them. His nonviolent thought was also based in the injunction to “turn the other cheek” in the Sermon on the mount, and Jesus’ teaching of putting the sword back into its place (Matthew 26:52). In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, King urged action consistent with what he describes as Jesus’ “extremist” love, and also quoted numerous other Christian pacifist authors, which was very usual for him. In another sermon, he stated: “Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling, and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don’t plan to run for any political office. I don’t plan to do anything but remain a preacher. And what I’m doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.”— King, 1967In his speech “I have been to the Mountain top“, he stated that he just wanted to do God’s will. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22


Central Theme of the Readings

Today’s Gospel, presenting Jesus’ “inaugural address” in the synagogue of Nazareth and outlining his theology of total liberation, marks a great moment in Jesus’ ministry. The Scripture readings for today focus our attention on the importance and liberating power of the Word of God as “sacramental,” making God present in our midst. The readings challenge us to listen to the Word, accept it into our hearts, then put it into practice as we live out our lives, thus liberating ourselves and others from all types of bondages.

Note: In his motu proprio of 30th September 2019, Aperuit Illis, Pope Francishas declared that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God).(ORDO-2021-22 page 45).


Scripture Readings Summarized

First Reading

Today’s first reading, taken from Nehemiah, and Luke’s Gospel both describe a public reading of Sacred Scripture which challenges the hearers to make a “fresh beginning” with a new outlook. In the first reading, after rebuilding the Temple and restoring the city, Ezra leads the people in a “Covenant renewal” ceremony by reading and interpreting the Law. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 19) sings the praises of the Law of the Lord and its effects on those who accept it.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

After defeating Babylon, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the exiled Jews, who had spent seven decades of exile in Babylon, could return home to Jerusalem. The Jews who returned rebuilt their ruined Temple (Ezra 6:15-17), and finished rebuilding the city walls under Ezra the priest, their spiritual leader, and Nehemiah, the Governor appointed by Persia (Nehemiah 6:15). The Lord gave an important mission to both men. They were to teach the Hebrew Scriptures and inspire the people to the high ideals of their ancestral religion. In today’s reading, Ezra is leading the people in a “Covenant renewal” ceremony. In this ceremony, with the active assistance of a few Levite helper-priests, Ezra reads and interprets the Law for the Jews gathered before the Water Gate, from early in the morning till mid-day on the first day of the Jewish year (Nehemiah 8:8). The Torah, thus, becomes a living Word of power, grace and forgiveness for these exiles. It evokes from them a dramatic response. They have come to realize the many ways in which they have failed to keep God’s Commandments in their lives. Hence, with tears of repentance in their eyes and joy in their hearts, the people respond with a great “Amen!” Israel, as we sing in today’s Psalm, was rededicating itself to God and His Law. The passage describes the birth of preaching: the first homily took place at an assembly of the Chosen People of God during the 5th century BC! In today’s Gospel, Jesus, too, reads from the Scriptures and interprets them by identifying himself with the messianic figure and mission depicted in the reading — “The spirit of the Lord is upon me…He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and glad tidings to the poor”—”Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing!”


Second Reading

The Second Reading, taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, reminds us that “together we are Christ’s Body, but each of us is a different part of it.” This suggests that, as different parts of Christ’s Body, each of us has a share, as instruments in God’s hands, in bringing the freeing and saving mission of Christ to our world in our times.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

The Christian community in the Greek seaport of Corinth was a mixture of people of various ethnic groups, a combination which occasionally caused divisions that threatened its unity. Paul was worried that the community might break apart into factions. So, in order to help them build up the Body of Christ in Corinth, he wrote about the need for them to have unity and mutual love. In today’s selection from that letter, Paul addresses a Christian community blessed with diverse manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Prophets, preachers, healers, teachers – you name it, the Spirit had bestowed the job on someone in Corinth! These folks often exercised their gifts in spectacular, ecstatic ways that drew a lot of attention, much as they can do today among people who attend revivals and the crusades of some Faith-healers. And that could have caused trouble. So Paul spends chapters 12, 13 and 14 of this letter trying to get the Corinthians to enjoy and express their gifts in ways that will give strength and unity to the community and glory to God rather than cause divisions by competition among them. Paul insists that the Corinthians must use their spiritual gifts to glorify God, not themselves.

This particular passage tackles the unity-of-the-Church issue with the metaphor of the parts of the body. Each member of the Church is compared to one of the parts of the body, who with God’s special gifts is making a unique contribution to the health of the whole. Hence, Paul urges the Spirit-gifted Corinthian Christians to find Jesus in their community by recognizing Jesus in one another. The same plea is being addressed to us in our day. Even if the Spirit has not granted us the gift of speaking in tongues or that of healing powers, we can always choose to exercise the gift of love, which we have all been given, and which Paul ranks higher than all the rest. Paul, one of the earliest Christian authors, believes that it is essential for all Jesus’ followers to understand and appreciate the necessity of their own presence and of their freeing role in the ongoing life of Body of Christ.


Gospel

Today’s Gospel describes how, on a Sabbath, Jesus stood before the people in the synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth, reading and interpreting what Isaiah had prophesied about the Messiah and his mission. Jesus claims that he is One sent “to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberation to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed”—language that reflects the Biblical year of Jubilee. To the great amazement and disbelief of his own townsmen, Jesus declares that Isaiah’s prophecy is being fulfilled at that very moment “in your hearing,” because the prophecy foretells and describes Jesus’ own mission and ministry. Jesus’ mission is still to give liberation to everyone who will listen to his “Good News,” accept it and put it into practice. Luke reports that surprise and admiration were the initial reactions of the people who were astonished at the power and eloquence. of this son of their soil

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

Synagogue Worship:

The Jews had only one main Temple, located in Jerusalem and used for offering sacrifices to God and celebrating the major feasts. Throughout the rest of the country, however, there were synagogues, one for every ten families or more, where the community, particularly the men, could offer Sabbath prayers and study the Scriptures. It was customary for the men to sit in the central part of the synagogue, where the scrolls were kept. The women and children sat in a separate area on the side of the synagogue.

It was the Jewish custom for the reader to stand while reading, and to sit down while teaching (Mt 13:54; Mk 6:1). The prayer began with “Shema’’ prayer followed by the recital of the “Eighteen Blessings,” praising and thanking God. Then seven passages from the “Torah” the book of Law and three passages from the “Prophets” were read and interpreted. Finally, the prayer was concluded by a priest or the synagogue president blessing the assembly using the blessing from the Book of Numbers (6; 22 ff).

Jesus’ Reading and Interpretation:

Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus participated in the Sabbath prayer of the synagogue in his native place in Nazareth with a band of disciples. The synagogue Liturgy of the Word was based on seven readings. The first four were from the Law (the Torah or the Pentateuch) followed by explanations given by the rabbi who was the teacher of the Law. The second set of three readings, taken from the prophets, could be read and interpreted by any circumcised male over thirty years of age. It was in this second capacity that Jesus read and preached on the passage from Isaiah (61:1-2a). Since Jesus did not belong to Aaron’s family, he could not be a Jewish priest. But as a popular lay teacher, he was given the chance to read and explain the portion from the Scroll of the Prophet Isiah. Naturally, the people of his native place were curious to hear from this carpenter-turned-prophet who had grown up among them, and had worked miracles throughout Galilee.

Luke reports that Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,” Jesus said, “because He has anointed me…” This “power of the Spirit” was absolutely essential in order for Jesus to complete his mission.

Theology of Liberation: 

The reading from Isaiah describes a kind of Messianic figure. In Isaiah 61:1-2, the prophet explicitly uses the language of “Messiah” or “Anointing”, “Anointed One.” Jesus identifies as that figure and declares that the mission and ministry and declares that the mission and ministry prophesied are his mission and his ministry. In other words, Jesus declares that Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in him, and this Scripture, about the Messiah, and the Jubilee, that we just heard, is fulfilled. Jesus claims that his messianic mission is similar to the mission given to Moses in Exodus 3:7-10, and that Jesus has been sent to Israel:

(1) to bring glad tidings to the poor;
(2) to proclaim liberty to captives;
(3) to give recovery of sight to the blind;
(4) to free the oppressed, and
(5) to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

[“An acceptable year,” in this context, suggested the ancient “Jubilee Year.” In the book of Leviticus 25, God says there is, at the end of seven times seven-year cycle, that is,  after 49 years, the 50th year will be a Jubilee year. It’s going to be a Jubilee year because in that year all debts are to be forgiven, all slaves are to be set free, and any land that has been appropriated, (family land which had been lost through debt), is to be returned to the original owners. Isaiah meant that the period of his ministry would open for all Israel the long-desired restoration of Zion which the Lord God Himself would accomplish, giving Israel His forgiveness and restoring her to His love and favor.

In selecting this Messianic passage (“This Scripture has been fulfilled today, in your hearing”), Jesus sums up both the source of his power and authority and the nature of his freeing and saving ministry.  First, Jesus claims the power of God’s Spirit as the source of his work. Second, Jesus makes this proclamation in the context of Judaism – on the Sabbath, from the Scriptures, and in the synagogue. Third, Jesus identifies his work, the work  of the Messiah, with that of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh (see Isaiah 42:1-4, in particular), who brings   Good News to the poor, proclaims release to the oppressed and recovery of sight to the blind — figuratively and literally. Fourth, this agenda begun in Nazareth is to extend to all places where the Word of God will be heard and understood.


Life messages

Choose AS MANY AS TIME ALLOWS

1) Receive Christ’s freedom, live it and pass it on to others

As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we share in the freeing, saving mission of Jesus. But we are captives of sin. We need Christ to set us free. We are often blinded by our evil habits, addictions and need for financial security. Once we receive true liberation from Christ, we have to share it with those we encounter in our daily lives, families, neighborhoods, parishes and workplaces.

2) Let the power of the Holy Spirit fill us, and then be ready to have miracles done through us

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus performed miracles because he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us be ready to become Spirit-filled instruments of Christ’s saving freedom.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

1) We need to receive Christ’s freedom, live it out, and pass it on to others:  As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we share in the freeing, saving mission of Jesus. However, even after we have chosen to believe in Jesus, to accept his teachings and to live them out in our lives, we are still in bondage. We are captives of sin, and only Christ can set us free. We are often blinded by our evil habits, addictions and need for financial security. Pride and prejudice can make us blind to the needs of the less-fortunate, prompting us to fear and avoid them, rather than to love and help them. We can also be blind to the presence of God within ourselves and others. We are often not free to listen to a lonely, heart-broken neighbor. We can be prisoners of materialism and consumerism, chained to pleasure, power, money and control of everyone and everything in our world. Accordingly, we need to be freed and raised to a higher, richer level of life. Once we receive true liberation from Christ, we need to share it with those we encounter in our daily lives — in our families, communities, parishes and workplaces.

2) We need to let the power of the Holy Spirit fill us, and to be ready to have miracles done through us. Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus performed miracles because he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the same Spirit to his disciples: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth…. He lives with you and will be in you” (Jn 14:16-17). To this very day, the Holy Spirit is available to all believers who sincerely ask Him to dwell in their hearts. If we fail to receive, and then to use, His power and His gifts, we are left with nothing but our natural abilities, and we will be unable to be used as instruments in His freeing miracles. Miracles occur every day through weak human instruments, although they may be less spectacular than the ones Jesus performed. People whose minds are ravaged by fear and hatred can be miraculously filled with peace and kindness. Those whose hearts are crippled with bitterness and anger can be made gentle and peaceful. Perhaps others, whose relationships with their spouses are strained, can be miraculously healed by love and faithfulness. These are true miracles, performed by the power of God, through the Holy Spirit, often making use of human instruments. Let us be ready to become Spirit-filled instruments of Christ’s saving freedom.

3) We need to make Bible reading and study a part of our daily Christian life.  Bible reading enables us to know Jesus more and to love him better. That is why we should set apart a time in the morning and in the evening to read a part of the Bible, giving priority to the Gospels and the Epistles. This reading should be an integral part of the evening family prayer. Children should be encouraged to read the Bible with the adults explaining to them what they read. We need to read the Scriptures as books inspired by God that teach us about God and how we should live our lives. We also need to ask for God’s grace to interpret what we read. God gives us inspiration so that we may understand the text and apply its lessons fruitfully to our lives. Five or ten minutes each day will make it possible to read the entire New Testament easily at least twice each year.

End of homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS. 

CHOOSE ONE

1) “Liberation theology” of obesity: And God created the earth with broccoli and cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow vegetable of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives. And Satan invented McDonald’s. And McDonald’s invented the 99-cent double-cheeseburger. And Satan said to Man, “You want fries with that?” And Man said, “Super-size them.” And Man gained pounds. And God created the healthful yogurt, that woman might keep her figure that man found so fair. And Satan discovered chocolate. And woman gained pounds. And God said, “Try My crispy fresh salad.” And Satan invented ice cream. And woman gained pounds. And God said, “I have sent you heart-healthy vegetables and olive oil with which to cook them.” And Satan invented a chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained pounds and his bad cholesterol went through the roof. ………..And Man went into cardiac arrest. And God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. And Satan invented HMOs

2) “ I’ve been looking for these for 3 years!” A door-to-door salesman from a publishing house asked a lady if she owned a copy of the Bible. “I certainly do!” she replied with some pride. To his next question, did she read it regularly, she responded, “Oh, yes!” and sent her little daughter to get the Bible from the table drawer. As she showed it to the man, her spectacles fell from between the pages. Without thinking, she exclaimed, “Oh, here are my glasses! I’ve been looking for these for 3 years!”

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week.

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