On the Road Together for January 27
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Tracy Rodenborn, Director of RCIA
Comfort and Challenge
Our readings this weekend help us reflect on the place for the Word of God in our lives. Our first reading is from a book in the Old Testament that is probably not as familiar to us as other books. It is from the book of Nehemiah and is part of the Historical Books in the Old Testament. Nehemiah was the governor of Judah during the period of the Restoration after the Babylonian exile. He and Ezra, a priest and scribe, were mainly responsible for helping the Jewish people restore their identity and land after many years in exile. Although the return to their land was a joyous occasion, the work of settling in and transitioning back to their roots and their faith practices were difficult. That is where our first reading comes in. Where should one turn in times of doubt and transition? How ought one to live now? Ezra gathers all of them and reads from the scroll of the Book of Moses and interprets it. They must return to their foundation, to their written and oral tradition passed down for them, to get their grounding and their encouragement to live as children of God in this new setting.
In our Gospel reading, we return to Luke now and remain in Luke for awhile. This passage happens at the beginning of the Gospel with excerpts from Chapter 1 and Chapter 4. Jesus begins his ministry in his hometown of Nazareth and in the synagogue, he reads the scroll from the Prophet Isaiah – what is a beautiful passage of God’s work of liberation for those who are in need:
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.
He then told everyone that this passage would be fulfilled in their hearing. What we do not get in this passage, but will for next week is that shortly after this pronouncement, the people were filled with fury and drove him out of town. In this case, the Word of God did not bring the people comfort, direction and peace; rather, it challenged them to a point of frustration, violence and anger. What proved to be Good News for some people was a challenging and uncomfortable message for others.
These are important reactions to consider when we approach the Word of God ourselves. Often, we speak of the Bible as providing comfort to those who need it and challenge to those who need it. Where are we right now in our lives? When we hear a passage and reflect on it, are we open to the challenge being presented to us? Are we ready to
be affirmed? Are we ready to really see how the Word of God speaks to our own behavior and decisions even if we do not like it? Or are we at a time in our lives when the Word of God does offer the comfort that we need?
In a survey awhile back on a Catholic college campus, students were asked what was their most difficult challenge in following Jesus. The number one answer was “comfortability.” I think if we all reflect on that, we can also admit that our desire for lives of comfort might keep us from following Jesus at times. Let us be attentive to the Word of God in our Scripture and Tradition in a special way this week and always, noticing the places that make us squirm, that do not always resonate with us, and let us take that to prayer. Let us see just what and where God might be calling us.
Readings for January 27:
on Thursday, January 24 at 1:31PM