January 23, 2022 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jan 25, 2022 | Blogs, Fr. Luke, Homilies

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons…  God has so constructed the body, so that there may be no division, 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.”  Words from our second reading today, from the 12th chapter of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy!

Each Sunday in the Creed we profess our belief in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.  Unfortunately, in our day and age, we are losing our sense of catholicity and not in the way that you might think.  The word catholic actually means “universal, wide.”  When we say that the Church is catholic, it means that our Christian faith is for everyone and indeed is comprised of members from all manners and walks of life throughout the entire world, not just in our own backyard.  Now, our Catholic Church, like any other organization, has things you must believe, things you must do or avoid, so as to be a member in good standing.  Yet in essence the Church is catholic, universal, all-inclusive.  People throughout the ages, in all walks of life, in every corner of the world have found a home in the Church.  And though we may not always do a great job at it, no one should be on the outside looking in because of accidentals like social status, wealth, gender, orientation, or nationality and the like.  Through the Church, God’s heart embraces everything and everyone. 

 

The opposite of catholicity on the other hand is narrowness, pettiness, lack of openness, sectarianism, provincialism, factionalism, and ideology – in a word: fundamentalism, and it has infected us all.  This is as true in the secular world as it is in the Church.  Many have told me, “I have never seen our country more divided than it is today on so many levels: political, social, moral, and economic.”  Fundamentalism and the polarization it generates is everywhere.  The characteristic of all fundamentalism is that, precisely, it seizes onto some fundamental value, for example the wisdom of the past or the divine inspiration of Scripture or political identification, making that the sole criterion for judging goodness and authenticity.  It judges you as good, decent, acceptable, loving, and worth listening to only if you maintain that same fundamental value.  This is leading us dangerously to utilize an ethics of identity, where our evaluations lead us to “categorize” the people around us.  We label persons as conservative, liberal, feminist, white supremacist, LGBTQ, Republican, Democrat, you-name-it, and if you fit into such and such a category, then you are considered insincere or ignorant, in need of either conversion or having your consciousness raised.  Too often we accept a label in place of a story (2x).  Tragically too, at the heart of all fundamentalism, there is an absence of a healthy self-love and a healthy self-criticism, which makes folks defensive, hypersensitive, and humorless.  It is because of this that the world and the church are so full of intolerance, bitterness, lack of openness, self-righteous condemnation, scapegoating and academic and moral intimidation. That is the real unCatholicism.

 

What are we to do about our diminishing catholicity and the very real divisions that are present among the human race?  I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  Indeed, human life is complicated, and surrounding each of us is an intricate network of human relationships bearing out its own set of histories, hurts, obstacles, and differences that makes coming together very difficult.  And yet our readings today happen to have some rather timely advice on the subject.  In the times of the early Church, St. Paul likewise found himself ministering to a much-divided people, who labelled themselves and others according to different factions: followers of Paul or Cephas or Apollos.  There were class divisions and the Christians who were poor and who were rich were segregated at Church gatherings.  There was stereotyping between those whose gifts were considered more valuable.  Fundamentalism reigned.  St. Paul saw it as his duty to restore unity and belonging to the Christian Community in Corinth. 

 

In response, St. Paul gives us one the best images in the entirety of Scripture of catholicity, of a unifying, universal embrace.  In our 2nd Reading, St. Paul gives us the image of the Body of Christ, to which all of us belong.  Our Gospel reveals how the embrace of Christ included those even on the margins, while Ezra the scribe in our first reading proclaimed God’s word to all, not just men as was expected, but to women and children as well.  Just so, St. Paul invites us to abandon our narrow labels and claim our shared identity first and foremost as God’s children, sharing communion together in the Body of Christ.  Associated in this way, Catholicity doesn’t mean uniformity.  Instead, St. Paul emphasizes the importance of interdependence, that our members’ diversity, different perspectives, and varying gifts are indeed necessary within the Body of Christ, for each of us are a vital part of the whole.  It is this that brings us together as one.  St. Paul dismisses comparisons and an attitude of inferiority in the Body of Christ.  Just because someone doesn’t have the supposedly desirable traits of being a hand or an eye, does not mean that they belong any less to the body.  St. Paul also downplays any notion of self-importance, for one member cannot say to the others, “I do not need you.”  And finally, St. Paul underscores the significance of solidarity.  If someone suffers, all suffer, if one rejoices so do all.  In Christ’s Body, the cares and concerns of others are not distant from ourselves but are indeed our own.  These things make for our catholicity and form communion in the Body of Christ.   

 

I was looking in our parish register the other day and discovered that there are many members of the Tate family who belong to this Church that I thought I would share.  For starters, there is old man “Dic” Tate who wants to run everything, while uncle “Ro” Tate goes around trying to change everything else.  Their sister “Agi” Tate stirs up plenty of trouble, with help from her husband “Irri” Tate.  Whenever new projects are suggested, “Hesi” Tate and his wife, “Vege” Tate, want to wait until next year.  Then there is Aunt “Imi” Tate, who wants our church to be just like the others.  “Devas” Tate is our beloved voice of doom, while “Poten” Tate wants to be a big shot.  And there is the outsider of the family, “Ampu” Tate, who has completely cut himself off from everyone else.  But then there is also Brother “Facili” Tate who is quite helpful in Church matters.  And a delightful happy member of the family is Miss “Felici” Tate.  Cousins “Cogi” Tate and “Medi” Tate always think things over and lend helpful, steady hands.  Like them or not, the members of the Tate family are all of us, each in our own vital way, belonging to the Body of Christ.  The 20th Century author James Joyce characterized the Catholic Church as, “Here comes everybody.”  If we should like to overcome our divisions and embrace our catholicity, we should espouse the same values St. Paul describes today in his famous image of the Body of Christ.  Should we say, ‘here comes everybody’ and claim this membership together in the Body of Christ as our own, then today, we too would hear the words, “this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” 

Reading I

Neh 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!”

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15

  1. (cf John 6:63c) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
    The law of the LORD is perfect,
    refreshing the soul;
    The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
    giving wisdom to the simple.
    R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
    The precepts of the LORD are right,
                rejoicing the heart;
    The command of the LORD is clear,
                enlightening the eye.
    R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
    The fear of the LORD is pure,
                enduring forever;
    The ordinances of the LORD are true,
                all of them just.
    R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
    Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
                find favor before you,
    O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
    R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Reading II

1 Cor 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?

OR:

1 Cor 12:12-14, 27

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.
You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.

Alleluia

Cf. Lk 4:18

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
    and to proclaim liberty to captives.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

Lk 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.”