Homily 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C January 27, 2019

The first theme that comes to light in today’s Gospel and the 1st reading from the Book of Nehemiah is that both settings for each story takes place in an assembly. There’s a crowd of people – men, women, and children old enough to understand in the Old Testament reading – listening to Ezra the priest proclaim the statutes of the law Moses carried down from God’s holy mountain. And, there’s a crowd in the synagogue listening and looking intently at Jesus the High priest as he proclaims and preaches from the Prophet Isaiah his divine purpose for being born. Both crowds like what they hear. So far. The assembly of Israelites gathered before Ezra as he reads from the book of the law from daybreak until midday. That’s a long time to listen to someone. They like what they hear being read, nod their assent in agreement, shout out some “Amen’s,” being roused up like a Super Bowl crowd; this assembly will eventually move forward to deny the Lord their God. They will take up ways of living that are foreign to the law of Moses, such as stealing from one of their own, cheating one of their own, or the children old enough to understand will not honor their father and mother because in the blink of an eye they are now teenagers, or, unlike Job who had every reason to, they will curse God, taking his name in vein. As an assembly. As a people. And then there’s the synagogue assembly, probably packed to overflowing because the native Son Jesus has returned after performing some miracles down the road. Nothing fills up an assembly quicker than the presence of a miracle worker. This same assembly so in love with one of their own will reverse the course of their collective mood of admiration in a short moment and push their native Son to the brow of a hill to hurl him over headlong, treating him as an enemy. As an assembly. As a people. As an entire town. This Gospel is why I pray the Bishop never assigns me to my home Parish of St. Bernard’s across the tracks from here, unless he wants me crucified, which I don’t believe he does. Assemblies are a funny animal. They can go either way – love you or hate you – or both in just a moment’s time. The Gospel and the 1st reading today address the main concern of St. Paul to the Christian community at Corinth; that of being one body in Christ. But not just a body of one in mind and heart, but one body that genuinely loves one another, cares for one another, grounded in the determination that the law of God, being the law of love is what keeps an assembly together in Christ. I’ll be very honest with you, which is nothing new. Nothing breaks the heart of my priesthood when members of the Church assembly tear each other apart, shoot each other down, judge one another in harsh terms, and turn their back on mercy and forgiveness. That’s the number one heartbreaker for my priesthood. It isn’t death, for God will care for his own who come before Him. It isn’t even sickness or disease, as awful as that is. We will all have our cross to carry, or more than one, assisting those who carry the heavier ones. It’s more the sniping between so-called brothers and sisters in the Lord, the dart-throwing, the glares, the looks that if only they could kill, the entire assembly would drop dead. I can’t wait to find out in heaven one day what I suspect is true from this Gospel; that when the synagogue assembly rejoiced in Jesus one moment, and then chased him to the edge of a hill the next moment, that after he walked safely through their gauntlet, that the assembly went back to Nazareth, that sleepy little village, and began sniping and biting each other. Because that’s how it works. In a religious assembly, in the office, in the classroom, wherever the crowds gather. Eventually, a crowd that loses the virtue of love will perform collective actions of hatred toward one another, and at God too. In the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, he tells Theophilus that he -Luke – writes down everything in orderly sequence so that Theophilus may realize the certainty of the teachings he has received. The 4 Gospel writers leave no doubt as to who Christ is, and to his preeminent teaching of love. Doubt is the tool of the Devil, as is confusion. And in case you haven’t noticed, our culture and our world is a bit confused in the present, especially in the area of morality and sexual behavior. The Devil has his fingerprints all over the name-calling, the baiting, the biting, and all over the strong anger controlling so many hearts in both large and smaller groups. How about ½ a million fans suing to replay a football game because one referee missed a call he should have made? That’s a lot of anger because of a football game. That’s not who we are. That’s not who Christ calls us to be. Jesus leads us into the synagogue, not because of his miraculous power that I pray all of you will be deeply touched by in whatever way is most important to you at this moment. Jesus leads us into this synagogue as many parts of one body; as hands, as feet, as ears, as teachers, as prophets, as apostles, as ones who perform mighty deeds, to go out into the world and transform it according to the law of love. Not according to our personal interpretation of what we think love is. That will lead to biting, fighting, and confusion, knowing who is at the center of it. But go out with God’s law of love that we learn and embrace in the holy teachings of our Catholic faith, received from the Apostles of the Lord. It begins here as one body in Christ. Kindness, compassion, being respectful to one another. Politics and the Devil – which can be one and the same- do not stamp a Christian assembly. Christ does, the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.