3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21) “Freedom In The Word of God” PDF Version
Homily for the 3rd Sunday of OT, Year C (2019): Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21
We may take for granted the freedom we enjoy Sunday after Sunday to gather as God’s Holy People to hear the Scriptures be proclaimed and worship God in the Sacrament of His Most Holy Body and Blood.
Freedom of Worship and the ability to speak of the truths of our Catholic Faith in a public manner remains a freedom we enjoy in our nation of Canada and should be a freedom we continually thank God remains in our land and be willing to stand up and fight for it when this freedom is compromised or put under attack. Often, when this freedom is guaranteed and permitted, we begin to assume it will always be there and our ability to grow lukewarm in appreciation for this freedom is very possible.
Often it is only after such freedoms have been taken away and then restored that our love for God, His Holy Word and the freedom to worship Him is revitalized and our willingness to endure persecution and suffering to maintain these freedoms is renewed.
During the time of the governor Nehemiah and the high priest Ezra, who were given the difficult task of helping the People of Israel rebuilt their nation after many years of exile in Babylon, among the many freedoms that were restored to Israel was the ability to listen, study and worship God through the use of Holy Scripture.
Prior to their exile, the People of Israel had their Temple in Jerusalem and could worship God in freedom, daily offering the prescribed ritual sacrifices for the Good of the People. Children were taught the Holy Scriptures and instructed in the ways of God’s Law. Yet in this freedom the People became complacent and indifferent, breaking God’s commandments while having a presumptuous confidence that the Lord would nonetheless pardon their offences and life could carry on as it had for many centuries.
All of this came to horrific end when Jerusalem was destroyed and the majority of the people taken into exile. The Temple was burnt to the ground, the scrolls of the Holy Scripture destroyed and life in Babylon would be one where the People could no longer worship God has they had for centuries, and many generations growing up ignorant and unaware of the truths of God’s law and salvation history as it is conveyed in the Word of God.
The People had lost not only their freedom of religion and worship, but also their very identity as God’s People, living now in a foreign land and lacking the comfort and consolation that came from meditating and hearing the Word of God. This in part helps us understand why the People rejoiced when the priest Ezra proclaimed to them the Sacred Words of their ancestors, stories that had not been heard in freedom for many years, and so the People rightly rejoiced, yet must also have felt a sense of remorse as they realized that it was through their own sins and indifference that they had lost this ability to abide in the Word of God.
Like the People of Nehemiah and Ezra’s time, may we too know how to ask God’s forgiveness for those time we take our faith for granted, grow cold to the truths we hear proclaimed in the Holy Scriptures and offer renewed words of thanks that God allowed us today to gather in freedom to worship the Lord.
And may we also look to support those causes within our nation and around the world that look to safeguard the freedoms we enjoy and also to support those who are denied them and require the consolation that our faith brings.
In the recent movie Paul, the Apostle of Christ, actor Jim Cavaziel, known for his remarkable role as Jesus Christ in The Passion of the Christ, offered another fine performance as the Evangelist St. Luke. This movie captured the brutality of the persecutions that the Roman Christians endure under the Emperor Nero.
From being torn apart by wild beasts for the amusements of the crowds in the Roman Circus to being set on fire as human torches to light the night streets of the Eternal City, the First Christians of Rome were rightly discouraged and questioned whether it worth laying down their lives for the Christian Faith, most especially because few if any of them had ever seen with their own eyes the One they proclaimed to be their Lord and Saviour.
It was to support the First Christians of Rome and other Christians around the ancient world who did not live in Palestine and never meet Jesus Christ or those who followed Him, save those Apostles who evangelised their communities, that St. Luke looked to strengthen his brethren by writing both the Gospel that bears his name and the Acts of the Apostles.
St. Luke tells us today how he wished to compose an orderly account of the events that took place in those 33 years that Jesus Christ walked upon His earth and to retell the story of those first disciples who endure hell, fire and sword to begin proclaiming the Good News they had received. St. Luke and others knew they could not simply cherish these stories in their own hearts, keeping them within a closed community or timidly failing to take the risk of sharing the Gospel with others, even when that meant personal and communal persecution and suffering.
They saw the afflictions they bore for love of Christ to be worth it because of the consolation they would bring to others, both those who had never heard of Jesus Christ and those who had and were now bearing the Lord’s Cross and prone to discouragement and lack of hope that can lead someone to abandon the faith they have received.
Had St. Luke failed to offer his orderly account of those stories and traditions that had been passed down to him by those who saw God in the Flesh, billions of men, women and children would have never have known the joy of abiding the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the love of the One who brings the Good News to poor, freedom for the oppressed, and consolation to the afflicted.
Likewise let us do what we can to share the Word of God with others in both word and action, especially with those who suffer. Let us offer words of support and appreciation to those priests who are persecuted, in our nation and aboard, for speaking the word of God in a spirit of daring and truth, most ironically in nations that uphold the freedom of speech and religion yet are hypocritical to censor and silence those who take offence by what is proclaimed in the Word of God.
Let us offer both our prayers and financial support to the Church that endures crushing persecution in our modern days, most especially in nations like China, the Middle East, Northern Africa, and elsewhere where the freedom of religion and worship for Christians is disregarded and placed under oppressive restrictions, even at the cost of one’s life.
And closer to home let us not tire in sharing our faith with others, trusting in the consolation it brings to those in the depth of anguish or enslaved to finding joy simply in the passing things of this world and not in those realities that are eternal and bring