Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
LK 1:1-4; 4:14-21
January 24, 2016
Recently, a BBC journalist, reporting from Madaya, Syria, a besieged city just miles from Damascus (actually a relatively short distance from Nazareth) started her TV report by acknowledging that when she began her assignment, she had doubts that conditions were as dire as described by the residence. Then, as trucks filled with food and medical supplies rolled into the town, and she saw the faces of starving people come out of the safety of their homes…she knew there was no “photo shopping” of the pictures of skeletal children posted on social media.
She spoke of the fact that “food” was being used as a weapon of war. The town had been surrounded by enemy forces, preventing the delivery of the things essential to sustaining life. She went on to explain that “even wars have laws” and that it is an internal national “law of war” that innocent civilians should not be starved to death. It was very difficult to watch this story. What is even more difficult, is knowing that there was only one month’s worth of supplies delivered to these people, who by now are probably down to the last of it…not knowing if more aid is going to make it through the military barricade. The report was nothing less than a study in hopelessness.
The present day events in the Middle East bring to mind the First Reading. Over run and over powered by enemy forces, Jerusalem was sacked and burned and its residents enslaved. Having finally been liberated after many years living in a foreign land, they returned to Jerusalem to find their beloved city…even the Temple…totally destroyed. To be in touch with the feelings of desperation and hopelessness they must have felt, tune into BBC.
While the loss of hope was devastating, perhaps the most lethal wound was the loss of faith. Separated from the Temple and their religious traditions, the Jewish people lost touch with God. They forgot that they were the Chosen People. It is likely that many even embraced the pagan ways of their captors. When they finally returned home, Ezra called them together to celebrate their homecoming; making it an opportunity for Israel to re-learn God’s will and God’s ways. With the return of faith, came the return of hope. Israel felt the same sense of relief and joy in hearing The Law, as the people of Madaya, Syria felt as the relief trucks rolled in. Why wouldn’t they? God’s law is as important to sustaining life, as food, water and medical supplies.
The conditions in Corinth, which Paul is addressing in our Second Reading, were probably not as violent and tragic as what many people in the Middle East are fleeing from today. Still, it does not take long for differences in appearance, beliefs, and life styles, to become the tinder for hatred and violence. Think of it this way: there would be no “refugee” issue if humankind were to hear Paul’s message encouraging us to accept our differences…not as something that distinguishes and divides us, but rather as ways in which we complement each other. Tolerance, acceptance and dialogue are ways to combat the tragic divisions that led to people starving children to death. Which brings us to this week’s Gospel.
Like the BBC journalist, Luke investigated the events he reported. He took pains to accurately, and in a logical sequence, record the events surrounding the mission and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Again, like the BBC reporter, it was his desire to report in such a way that left no doubts as to the truth of what he witnessed and was broadcasting. He did not want to be accused of “photo shopping” the story. The message is too important to allow room for doubt.
What is reported in this Sunday’s Gospel, is that God’s Word made flesh, spoke God’s Word first proclaimed through Isaiah. God is telling all people of all ages, that there would be no need for “laws of war” or “rules of engagement” if God Law were to reign supreme and if humankind were to set aside our differences and engage one another as loving sisters and brothers…all children of a good and loving God.
We take this Third step into Ordinary time, reminded by our Readings that no day or age is “ordinary” because Christ has come to strengthen our faith, fill us with hope and challenge us to live as we were created to…in a loving union with God and one another. If we were to re-learn and then live this lesson…then like the people returning to the destroyed city of Jerusalem, we could begin to rebuild our world, and the BBC could proclaim a “year favorable to the Lord!”