By Fr. Al Naseman, C.PP.S.
“Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer.”
This last lines of today’s responsorial psalm I make my prayer as I begin this reflection.
The liturgy today details two homecomings and it features the longest continuous scripture reading and the shortest homily.
The first homecoming is a collective one. The whole nation of Israel is returning home after the Babylonian exile. The restoration is led by a layman, Nehemiah, and Ezra the priest.
Ezra brings the scripture (the law) in front of the people and reads from it from daybreak till midday. The people deprived of the Word of God for years raise their hands on high and shout “Amen, Amen.” (I imagine them jumping up and down.) “The law of the Lord is perfect refreshing the soul.”
The second homecoming is an individual one. Having already began his public ministry, Jesus is returning to his hometown of Nazareth where he was raised. He went, as he always did, to the synagogue. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He read, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me.” His homily: “This scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Yes, Jesus, your words are spirit and life. You are the Word of God.
St. Paul continues in the letter to the Corinthians, we are Christ’s body and individually we are parts of it. The mission of Jesus continues both in the universal Church and here in our local parish. In our many ministries from administration, to teachers in school and religious education, to healers visiting the sick and the homebound and providing meals at funerals, musicians, sacristans, lectors, servers, Eucharistic ministers, preachers, those who remove the snow from the parking lot, and who keep the restrooms snow white.
At the sign of peace, we reach out to members of Christ’s body by handshake, hug, a bow, and a smile, perhaps a pat on the back, kiss between spouses. We reach out in empathy (the ability to share in each other’s emotions, thoughts, and feelings). “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer. If one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.”
We are all given to drink of the one Spirit. Let’s raise our hands and shout amen, amen!
Fr. Al Naseman, C.PP.S., is a preacher and retreat leader who lives at St. Charles Center in Carthagena, Ohio.