24 January 2010. 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nehemiah 8, 2-10; Psalm 19; 1 Cor 12, 12-17; Luke 1, 1-4; 4,14-21
The readings today can teach us two important elements on how to live our lives well. First, the importance of our roots: where we grew up, where we came from. We should not abandon our backgrounds because it is what made us who we are today. In the first reading, the Jews listens to the priest Ezra read the Scriptures. They have just returned from their exile, and they are back in Jerusalem. They are to rebuild their home, and the first thing that they do is to build their spirit. Their faith is the heart of their lives. The Gospel is also about that. Jesus returns to Nazareth, where He grew up. Nazareth is His home, and upon His return, He goes to the synagogue as was His custom. In the synagogue, He reads from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And the “eyes of all looked intently at Him.”
There are many slogans today that suggest this return to where we came from. During Vatican II, the Church urge all of us to return to the foundations of our faith. This return makes us appreciate the importance of Scripture so that many Catholics now go into bible studies and pray using Scripture. In addition, many religious congregations and organizations reflect on the primeval inspiration of their founders so that they will always be faithful to the very purpose of their existence. Moreover, psychology tells us that to re-orient our lives, we have to “go back to our roots” and retrace our steps to the past. We do this to be free from our issues and traumas that determine our decisions and our reactions in the present. To be free from the clutches of our past, we have to face them. Furthermore, lifestyle magazines also urge the homemaker to ‘go back to the basics’ --- to find joy and inspiration in the simple things in life. In other words, if we are to update our lives, we are to return to the very foundations.
What then do we do? In our lives, this return is experienced especially in many homecomings and reunions. In these events, we return and relive memories. The bible is the memory of all Christians. When we read, explain, understand and pray using Scripture, as Ezra and Jesus did, we become truly part of the whole Christendom. Wherever we are in the world, when we meet a Christian there are memories we share. We all know the story of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, or Joseph. We have the story of the birth of Jesus and how He died. We keep in our hearts Paul and the letters he wrote about the expansion of our faith. What builds our relationships are our memories. Our shared stories and customs is what strengthens the bond between persons and communities. Case in point: you will know if you belong to a group of persons if you know and share their stories. Thus, homecomings enrich our lives.
Second, the importance of building communities. The second reading affirms our uniqueness, because we possess different gifts and abilities. Our return to the past will help us discover our individuality and our cultural backgrounds --- as “Jews and Greeks, slaves or free persons” during the time of Paul. But Paul tells us that in this diversity, we are all one because we have been baptized in the same Spirit. And thus, these talents and cultural differences are given by God in order to enrich the Body of Christ. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “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.” Our individual gifts are meant to be at the service of a community, both specifically (as your religious organization or parish) and generally (as the whole Christian community or our global world).
Scripturally, we call these Spirit-given talents, ‘charisms’ --- or gifts of the Spirit. And when these gifts operate or are used to build our communities, they are, as a matter of fact, called ministries. If you belong to a ministry, such as the music ministry in the parish, then it presupposes that your musical talents serve a specific congregation at mass, and generally, the whole parish community. In fact, when a choir chooses a song to sing at mass, they have to take into consideration, the demography of the congregation (culture, age, educational background ie. academic, urban poor, village, etc.). Can the congregation sing the song? This is called the pastoral judgment. If we want the mass to be participative, we sing songs that people can sing. Therefore, when serving using your God-given talents, the question is not so much what you want to sing, but what song will better help the congregation pray and appreciate the Word of God more. The same thing with the different ministries in the Eucharist: the Lectors and Servers, the special ministers of the Eucharist, the Ministry of Hospitality in which the lay Mother Butlers and the greeters belong.
In the third week of Ordinary Time, we reflect on our regular and daily lives. Today, the Lord puts into the fore the importance of being rooted and at the same time of being reaching out in the community. Think of a tree: the leaves and branches cannot reach out to the sky unless it is rooted deeply into the soil.