Rejoicing in the Lord
Father Phil Paxton, CP
In our first reading for this Sunday from Nehemiah (8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10), the people of Israel have returned from exile, and Ezra the priest assembles the people together and reads God’s Law to them. The people listen attentively, and at the end, join Ezra in blessing God. Then, the people, in a spirit of repentance, prostrate themselves, weeping over their sins. But Ezra and Nehemiah encourage the people to celebrate: “Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!” To turn back to God brings joy that the world cannot give!
That sentiment is amplified in our Gospel reading from Luke (1:1-4, 4:14-21), in which we hear about Jesus returning to Nazareth, entering the synagogue there, and reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The prophecy He reads is full of hope, about the prophet being sent to bring “glad tidings to the poor,” “proclaim liberty to captives,” “recovery of sight to the blind,” and “to let the oppressed go free, and to announce a year acceptable to the Lord.” And then, Jesus makes a bold statement: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus’ coming is a cause for joy, as it is the fulfillment of God’s promise to His people!
Similar to the reflections on the Baptism of Jesus a couple of weeks ago, when we may have considered whether the Father’s words to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son. With you I am well pleased;” may be extended to us, I wonder whether part of rejoicing in the Lord might be rejoicing in the gift of life that God has given us, and the gift of each other. In our second reading from 1 Corinthians (12:12-30), we hear this great discourse by St. Paul about the unity and diversity of the body of Christ, using the human body as a metaphor: “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.” St. Paul writes about how no part of the Body of Christ should consider itself not a part of the Body because it’s not the same as another part. He also writes about how no part of the Body should look on another part as being unnecessary; that in fact, all the parts are related: “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” We need each other!
There are many who are in need, and are yearning to hear and see Good News. There are many who are blind to their own worth and dignity, and others who are blind to the worth and dignity of others, just because they are different. There are still others who are captive to fear and anxiety and despair, especially during these times of Covid and division. And there are others who are oppressed by discrimination or poverty or addiction. If we could let ourselves rejoice in the Lord, and in the Lord’s love for us and the world, and flowing out of that, rejoice in the gift of our lives and the gifts of the lives of others, God’s love in Jesus Christ could shine through us, and we could do our part in bringing glad tidings to the poor, sight to the blind, liberty to captives and freedom to the oppressed, working for justice, peace, and reconciliation.
May Jesus use us to help others rejoice in Him.
I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.