Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly,
which consisted of men, women,
and those children old enough to understand.
Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate,
he read out of the book from daybreak till midday,
in the presence of the men, the women,
and those children old enough to understand;
and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform
that had been made for the occasion.
He opened the scroll
so that all the people might see it
— for he was standing higher up than any of the people —;
and, as he opened it, all the people rose.
Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God,
and all the people, their hands raised high, answered,
Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD,
their faces to the ground.
Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.
Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe
and the Levites who were instructing the people
said to all the people:
"Today is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep"—
for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.
He said further: "Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks,
and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared;
for today is holy to our LORD.
Do not be saddened this day,
for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!"
Brothers and sisters:
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
Now the body is not a single part, but many.
If a foot should say,
"Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body, "
it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
Or if an ear should say,
"Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body, "
it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?
If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
But as it is, God placed the parts,
each one of them, in the body as he intended.
If they were all one part, where would the body be?
But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I do not need you, "
nor again the head to the feet, "I do not need you."
Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker
are all the more necessary,
and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable
we surround with greater honor,
and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,
whereas our more presentable parts do not need this.
But God has so constructed the body
as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,
so that there may be no division in the body,
but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it;
if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.
Now you are Christ's body, and individually parts of it.
Some people God has designated in the church
to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers;
then, mighty deeds;
then gifts of healing, assistance, administration,
and varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events
that have been fulfilled among us,
just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning
and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,
I too have decided,
after investigating everything accurately anew,
to write it down in an orderly sequence for you,
most excellent Theophilus,
so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings
you have received.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,
and news of him spread throughout the whole region.
He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
"Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."
The older I get, the more I’m convinced we must constantly be reminded of the basics of our faith. If we don’t, we’ll eventually find ourselves in the same situation the Chosen People experienced during the time of Nehemiah and Ezra. Though they prided themselves on being the people of the covenant, many had forgotten the rules and regulations which comprised the agreement their ancestors had entered into with Yahweh. They had no idea what their covenant responsibilities actually were.
Yet, instead of lording their ignorance over them, Nehemiah and Ezra encourage them to celebrate. The day they finally discovered what Yahweh wanted them to do was sacred, holy to them and Yahweh. They had started to actually become the people God wanted them to be, living the unique contract he/she had made with them.
As a teacher of Scripture, I’ve at times found myself in parallel situations. In helping people return to the beginnings of our faith, I’ve also experienced opening eyes and ears to things some of my fellow Christians never before realized existed. Take, for instance, today’s second reading.
Many of the Christians I’ve encountered through the years have no idea we’ve been blessed to be molded into the body of the risen Christ, an essential part of the covenant we’ve made at baptism with Jesus of Nazareth, a responsibility we can’t sluff off or replace with our membership in the Catholic Church. Though most of us are content just to keep our “noses clean” and eventually squeeze into heaven, we forget that because of our baptismal covenant we’ve agreed to carry on the ministry of Jesus and become other Christs.
Thankfully Paul of Tarsus clearly understood that responsibility and reminded his Corinthian community about it. Since no one person can carry on Christ’s ministry by herself or himself, we constantly must join together with the other “gifted” people Paul spoke about last week. Each of us plays a part; no one’s contribution is insignificant. Christ’s body isn’t whole if any gift – no matter how “small” - is left out.
A sign we’ve forgotten this essential aspect of our faith has been the Catholic practice of referring to priests alone as other Christs. I certainly presume priests can be other Christs, but they became such not on the day of their ordination, but on the day of their baptism.
When Luke’s Jesus announces, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” is he speaking about what he historically is doing, or is he referring to himself/herself as the risen Christ? The majority of Scripture scholars believe it’s the latter. The only Jesus our evangelist experienced was the risen Jesus. That means Luke is talking about the body of Christ that Paul spoke about.
Notice, Luke’s Jesus doesn’t say, “I’m fulfilling this Scripture passage;” rather he says, “It’s being fulfilled.” That seems to imply the people reading these words are helping in that fulfillment. All of us are bringing the glad tidings, liberating captives, giving sight to the blind, freeing the oppressed, and proclaiming a “holy” year. If we’re not willing to help, God’s word will never be fulfilled.
In one form or another, Christianity’s been around for more than 2,000 years, far longer than our original ancestors in the faith thought it would take to evangelize the world. Perhaps one of the reasons for the delay comes from the fact that many of us accidently threw away or lost Jesus’ original plans. As the late Ed Hays frequently reminded us: “Jesus’ original followers imitated him long before they worshipped him.” Could we create some place in the liturgy to quote Ed at least once a month? It could easily become one of our essentials we forget.