Saturday, January 23, 2010

Renovated and Missioned

(3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, C)

In the first reading today we hear from the book of Nehemiah, in which we meet Ezra the priest. Ezra and Nehemiah were two important figures in the return of the people of God from the Babylonian Exile. Towards the end of the sixth century BC, after two generations in exile, King Cyrus the Persian ended their Captivity and allowed the people to return to Jerusalem. The city, of course, had to be rebuilt, and Nehemiah is famous for some of this work. The faith had to be reestablished as well, and this is what is going on in the reading. Ezra is reading out the Law to the people and restoring familiarity with God’s word and commandments. Though the people are weeping—perhaps from having to stand there all morning or because the newly rediscovered demands of the Law seemed overwhelming—Ezra invites them to celebrate. Jerusalem is being rebuilt, the covenants are being renewed, and it’s time, as Ezra says, for “rich foods and sweet drinks.”

The good news for us today is that Jesus, in the announcement and inauguration of his mission which we hear in the gospel, is about the same work for us. Nehemiah rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem can be an image for us of what we are about here at the Sunday Eucharist. As the Catechism teaches, “The Eucharist makes the Church.” (§1396) In Holy Communion we are addressed by the minister with our deepest name, our enduring and eternal identity—the Body of Christ. We gather here to be made together into the New Jerusalem, which, as we hear in the book of Revelation, is the new City which comes out of heaven and joins herself to earth as the ultimate destiny of creation. We, in our human lives united to the humanity of Christ in our baptism, are the living stones that provide for that joining of heaven and earth. Here at Mass we are built into that New Jerusalem. “The Eucharist makes the Church.”

As the Church we are the heirs and custodians of the mission of Jesus Christ. His mission is put into our hands and entrusted to us. This is part of what it means when Jesus says that the prophecy of Isaiah is “fulfilled in your hearing.” When we gather each Sunday to hear God’s Word, the mission of Jesus is handed over anew and fulfilled in our acceptance.

What is the mission of Jesus Christ? It is to be anointed to “bring glad tidings to the poor,” “liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” To offer our time, praise, personal sacrifices and indeed our whole selves on this altar each Sunday is to be willing to be transformed into the Body of Christ and become the bearers of this mission. As the Catechism also teaches, the “Eucharist commits us to the poor.” “To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren.” (§1397)

In our Holy Communion today, may we know that we are fulfilling the command of Ezra to make our rejoicing in the Lord our strength as we eat the rich food of the Body of Christ and share in the sweet drink of his Precious Blood. Let us rejoice to be built into the New Jerusalem, and let us accept anew the mission of Jesus to bring good news to the poor.

1 comment:

4narnia said...

nice homily, Fr. C! i came across this following reflection that has to do with Mass and the Eucharist: "Sometimes, our initial impression is that having to include time for Mass on a Sunday is rather inconvenient. But if you make the effort, you will realize that this is what gives proper focus to your free time. Do not be deterred from taking part in Sunday Mass, and help others discover it too. This is because the Eucharist releases the joy that we need so much, and we must learn to grasp it ever more deeply, we must learn to love it. Let is pledge ourselves to do this-it is worth the effort!" ~Pope Benedict XVI (Coming Together in Joy)" i think this quote by Pope Benedict really says a lot! PEACE! ~tara t~