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For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Third Sunday of the Year (C) 2016

 The Third Sunday of the Year(C)
(Nehemiah 8: 2-4, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27; St. Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21)

Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our Gospel passage today is difficult to interpret because of scholars who tell us that St. Luke has put this Gospel ‘pericope’ in the wrong place; this event didn’t really happen in the course of Jesus’ life and work at this stage where St. Luke has, they say, ‘inserted’ it, and where Mother Church offers it to us today: it is made up of various strands taken from other situations etc. etc.
Nevertheless here we have it on this third Sunday of the Year for our Gospel reading; apparently having occurred shortly after the marriage feast at Cana which itself followed hard on Jesus’ previous Baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan.   And though I am in no way able to gainsay the learning of scholars, I must try my best, as a preacher of the Gospel, to make as good purposeful and saving sense as I can of what we have before us.  This, however, is not over difficult because Luke’s sequence of events is very satisfying: Jesus, having been acknowledged by the voice of His heavenly Father at John’s baptism on Jordan’s banks then, in the power of His Father’s heavenly Gift, outwitted and embarrassed the Devil in the desert; and shortly thereafter, on returning to Galilee, received His mother’s blessing and prayer (‘they have no wine’) for the fullness of the inauguration of His Messianic calling.
Here, in words spoken by Our Blessed Lord Himself, Saint Luke does most definitely intend to say, and wants us to understand that, all things having been fittingly prepared:
 TODAY, this (supremely important and Messianic) Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.
Why does the Evangelist insist so emphatically that Isaiah’s prophecy was brought to its fulfilment by Jesus reading the prophetic passage during that Sabbath assembly in the synagogue of Nazareth on this very day?
It seems to me that here St. Luke is doing something similar to what St. John did at the beginning of his Gospel:
A man named John was sent from God.  He came to testify to the lightisH so that all might believe through him; (for) the true light, which enlightens everyone, was in the world and the world came to be through Him but the world did not know Him.  He came to what was His own, but His own people did not accept Him. (1:6-11)
What John – considerably later in life -- expressed as a mature theologian, Luke earlier presents as an evangelist delighting to draw attention to Jesus’ loving humanity and Personal relationships; and in doing so he gives prominence to Mary’s intercession at the wedding feast in Cana as a divinely arranged and most humanly appropriate mother’s blessing for her Son setting out on His public mission as Christ and Saviour; a blessing which consequently transfigures her prayer at Cana -- ‘Son, they have no wine’ -- in such a way that it addresses not merely the temporary embarrassment of the newly-weds, but also the ancient hopes and expectations of God’s Chosen people, and even the whole of mankind’s historical suffering from original sin and ignorance.
Those words of Jesus:
Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,
are also immensely important for all who read the Scriptures searching for hope in God, and above all for those who turn to the New Testament looking for eternal life with Jesus.  As He Himself once said to the Sadducees:
You are misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God; have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead but of the living (Matthew 22: 29-33);
Jesus thus assures us that Scripture is always capable of present-day fulfilment in the lives of those who are humble enough to patiently wait and prayerfully listen for Him in their constant and faithful attendance on God; and many are the saints of Mother Church whose lives were formed or transformed by such awareness and response to God speaking to them personally in the Scriptures, such a St. Anthony the Great whose memory we have just recently celebrated.
But there is also much else which is eminently appropriate for us today to be noted in our  ‘problematic’ Gospel reading.
Salvation, it tells us, begins ‘at home’, among those fellow citizens of Jesus at Nazareth and co-members of the Chosen People; likewise, any spiritual renewal for Mother Church today should penetrate first and foremost, deepest and most lovingly, into the hearts and minds of all her apparently faithful children standing as Catholics before our modern world.  For too long the awareness of individual responsibility before God and  to God among some commonly accepted as ‘devout’ Catholics has been downplayed in favour of the call for Church popularity in general and a humanistic welcoming of individuals, to the extent that now a closer and more accommodating relationship with others can be regarded as ample justification for a change in or break with God’s law or even the denial of God Himself: witness all the ramifications of gay marriage (I am not speaking in any way against same-sex friendships), sex and gene modification, abortion advice and contraception facilities, and the growing lobby for the comfortable procurement of death ‘on demand’.
Luke, moreover, in our Gospel reading shows Jesus being murderously hated and rejected for reasons such as personal disdain and direct animosity:
                They asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” 

Jesus Himself saw most clearly in their attitude a strong jealousy and hidden antipathy, an unwillingness to accept Him as being worthy of the glowing reports accorded Him by others:
Surely, you will quote to Me this proverb, “Physician, cure yourself,” and say, “Do here in Your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.”
They were all filled with fury.  They rose up, drove Him out of the town, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl Him down headlong.
The eventual rejection and even the crucifixion of the Messiah, and very Son of God, were thus revealed as having been most deeply and secretly hidden in the hearts and minds of those apparently devout members of that synagogue in Nazareth who had apparently known Jesus and lived and worked with Him for years.
People of God, in our responsibility before God and to God we must recognize the desperate state of Mother Church in our world today and indeed the desperate state of the world itself, as the celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking recently warned, saying that it was in danger of destroying itself in the next 100 years.  However such responsibility to God for ourselves and before God for our world is most definitely -- for all who will ultimately turn out to be true children of God, in Jesus, by the Holy Spirit -- an immense and most glorious privilege as well.
Nevertheless,  St. Luke’s ‘difficult and displaced pericope’,  tells us that none's sincerity and enduring fidelity can be presumed; humble and persistent personal prayer and sacramental worship, along with ever more sincere selflessness in our response to and promotion of Jesus’ Good News before men can, on the basis of absolute confidence and trust in God’s unfailing salvific presence in Mother Church, serve the blessings He is preparing for all who will ultimately and eternally find themselves sitting at the wedding feast of heaven.