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Sunday Scripture: The wonder of God’s plan of salvation

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

By Father Timothy Schehr

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Nehemiah 8:2-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

The readings this Sunday celebrate the wonder of God’s plan of salvation. In the Gospel we will hear Luke tell his readers he wants to write down “in an orderly sequence” the special moments in God’s plan for salvation. Luke makes some reference to fulfillment when his orderly account reaches one of these special moments.

Jesus, for example, begins His journey to Jerusalem when the days were fulfilled for His death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit came down on the apostles at Pentecost when the time was fulfilled for this to happen. We have a similar marker in this Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus tells the congregation that an oracle from Isaiah is fulfilled “today” in their hearing.

The oracle from Isaiah that Jesus read that day was a powerful one. The prophet looks ahead to the day a very special servant of God arrives with the best of news. The poor hear news that can lift their spirits; the blind see; captives hears words of freedom.

This was a passage that must have been one of the Lord’s favorites. He actually took the time to find it in the scroll of Isaiah. He may have unrolled many feet of scroll to do so, since these lines come near the end of the scroll of Isaiah. No wonder He has everyone’s attention when He hands the scroll back to the attendant and returns to His seat! Then He makes the start­ling announcement that they are seeing this oracle fulfilled right before their eyes! We are definitely at a significant moment in God’s plan of salvation. Luke’s orderly account could not overlook this one!

In the first reading Ezra and Nehemiah tell the assembly of Israel that they too are witnessing something special taking place right before their eyes. But before we look at this reading in more detail it might be helpful to say a little bit about Ezra and Nehemiah. It is nearly 500 years before the time of Jesus. The nation of Israel had returned from the exile in Babylon. Now it was time to rebuild the community. Nehemiah’s plan was to reconstruct the walls of the city of Jerusalem. That would give them a sense of security. Ezra’s plan was to rebuild the faith of the people. He understood that a right relationship with God was the only true source for security.

Ezra also understood that God’s law was the foundation for any spiritual rebuilding. So in this reading Ezra, with Nehemiah nodding in approval, reads and explains passages from the Torah. The instruction goes on from morning to noon, but the people do not complain. In fact they are so moved by God’s message their eyes fill with tears as they realize how unfaithful they have been to God. But Ezra and Nehemiah see things differently. They urge they people to celebrate. They have heard God’s word. Now they can put it into practice.

In the second reading Paul marvels at the design of the human body. Every part contributes to the good of the whole. But Paul goes way beyond a lesson in anatomy. He wants the faithful in Corinth to understand that each of them is bonded by baptism into the body of Christ. Each of them has a contribution to make to the church. So there should be no rivalry between them. Instead they should work together for the good of all. Something wonderful is happening right before their eyes.

Father Schehr is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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