Celebrate Sunday Mass - 1.23.22

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1/23/2022 (2 years ago)

By Deacon Keith Fournier

January 23, 2022 -- Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Catholic Online Community and Catholic Online School students...

I AM HAPPY TO OFFER EACH OF YOU AN INVITATION TO SUNDAY MASS on January 23, 2022, in the Catholic Diocese of Tyler, Texas. Our readings are powerful on this Third Sunday in Ordinary time. They speak to us about the great gift of the Word of God, the written Word (the Sacred Scripture), and the Living Word, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word made flesh

In the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (In Latin, Dei Verbum) a beautiful teaching from the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council on the Word of God, we read this explanation of what can happens when we read, pray and study the Bible:   

"(I)n the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life." (Paragraph 21) 

The insight is a key to fruitfully reading the Bible. When we read, pray and hear the scripture, we are invited to encounter the Lord. The Living, Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, speaks to us through the written word is found in the Bible. The written word puts us in touch with Jesus, the Living Word.

Understanding the Bible depends upon having a living relationship with the Risen Lord and, through Him and in the Spirit, with the Father. Everyone one of us can have this kind of relationship through prayer. Our ability to pray increases the more we read the Word of God. The two feed one another and fuel one another. 

St. Paul told St. Timothy who led the struggling Church of Ephesus, "...from infancy you have known (the) sacred scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:15-16). 

The Greek word translated as inspired means "God-Breathed". The very breath of God comes through the words of the Bible. Timothy had a fruitful relationship with the Scriptures because He had an intimate loving relationship with the Lord whom they reveal. 

If we want to understand the Bible - and have it change us - we need to grow in the kind of living faith Timothy had. That kind of living faith will grow in us as we read, pray, and study the words of Scripture. The two are inextricably connected. 

God has entrusted the Bible, the Sacred Scripture, to the Church. It was first received by the early Church in the form of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament books. Then, four Gospels and the letters of the apostles that were "circulated" (that is what the word "encyclical" means) among the early Christian communities. 

Later, the "Canon" (which means "measuring stick"), was finalized within the Church. It is intended to govern her life and worship. It is the guide for her in carrying forward the redemptive work of Jesus on earth until He comes again. It is also a treasure given to each one of us. But, we must read, study and pray the scriptures. 

In our first reading, taken from the Book of Nehemiah, the priest Ezra opens the Book of the Law and begins to read it aloud to the people who had gathered in the square. He reads it for hours. He and others explain and break it open. They all stay and listen. Can you imagine? As a homilist, I know many people check their watch or smart phone if a homily exceeds ten minutes. The people heard the word with more than their ears. They heard it with their hearts. They were moved to tears of repentance and fell prostrate to the ground. He told them to not be sad, but to rejoice in the Lord. That rejoicing in the Lord would be their strength. 

Our Responsorial Psalm from Psalm 19 tells us that the Law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul and the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. There is power in the Word of God. It is "God-Breathed" if the ears of our heart are open to hearing it. It is more than words on a page.

In our second reading, taken from the Apostle Paul's letter to the Corinthians, we heard that we are members of the Body of Christ. The Church, the New Israel, is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. The Bible is at the heart of the Church's worship, faith, and life. It is the "Book of the Church." 

Christianity is not about "me and Jesus" but me in Jesus. Through Baptism we were incorporated into the living, Risen Christ. By grace, and our cooperation with grace, we are made capable of becoming new creations. (2 Cor. 5:17) The Sacraments are channels of grace. The Bible is a channel of grace. But we must receive both.   

In the Gospel appointed for today, we heard excerpts from the first chapter of St Luke followed by verses from the fourth chapter of the same Gospel. The verses from chapter four which we heard follow after Jesus had returned from being tempted in the desert. He overcame the devil through reciting the scriptures. The Living Word uses the written Word. 

Then, Jesus, the Incarnate, Living Word, stood up in the temple of Nazareth, his hometown, and reads from the Prophet Isaiah. 

He told all who were present that those verses are fulfilled in Him. He is the One anointed to bring good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to set the oppressed free. He is the promised Messiah. Once again, we see the connection between the written word and the Living Word in the Temple of Nazareth. 

Jesus is in our midst, and He speaks to us today. As we hear the Word of God proclaimed today in the first part of the Mass, what is called the Liturgy of the Word, let us ask the Lord to open the ears of our hearts and speak to us. He will. He wants us to receive the words from the Scripture the way the people of Israel did in our first reading. He wants us to allow them to move us to repentance. He wants the words of the sacred scriptures to lead us into a deeper relationship with Him. He is the Living Word. 

Remember the words I began this letter with, from the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation:  "(I)n the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life." (Paragraph 21) 

Have a Blessed Lord's Day,

Deacon Keith Fournier
Dean of Catholic Online School
Chaplain of Your Catholic Voice Foundation

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