Life & Soul Life and Soul

The Word this Week

Third Sunday of the Year
Neh 8:2-6 & 8-10; 1 Cor 12:12-30; Lk 1:1-4 & 4:14-21 (Year C)

‘The Law of the Lord is perfect, it revives the soul. The precepts of the Lord are right, they gladden the heart. The command of the Lord is clear, it gives light to the eyes.”

The responsorial psalm at this Sunday’s liturgy is a litany of praise for God’s will as revealed in Israel’s Law. It follows Nehemiah’s account of the proclamation of the Law to the assembled faithful who had returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. “Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly. He read from the book from early morning till noon, all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.”

The return and rebuilding of Jerusalem, linked to the proclamation of God’s Law, were clearly the foundations of a new chapter in Israel’s life after the many years of alienation and estrangement.

Our own faith journey is ever changing. There will be many times, both as individuals and as a Church, when we shall feel called to a new beginning. We can learn much from Israel’s new start following the exile. The restoration of Jerusalem began with externals, the rebuilding of homes and the Temple. Much more importantly, this physical regeneration was accompanied by the inner renewal of the people. “Ezra opened the Book and all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down to the ground and prostrated themselves to the Lord.”

Every fresh beginning must reach beyond the externals of our lives. It must have at its heart the surrender of our lives to the will of God.

At the start of his ministry Jesus, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, proclaimed himself to be our new beginning. “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”

This new beginning is first from within as we surrender our sinfulness, a blind enslavement, to the Lord’s good news. It is in his forgiveness alone that we are set free. He alone opens our eyes to his promised favour.

Only then does our new beginning reach outwards. Empowered by his Spirit our lives become a proclamation of his Good News.