SUNDAY HOMILY: The Happy Priest - Practical Lessons from Nazareth
During the time of Jesus, Nazareth was a small city of a population around 2,000 people. As a faithful Jew, Jesus would go to the synagogue on the Sabbath.
The synagogue service contained five parts. First, the \"Shemá\" was proclaimed: \"Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord\" (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9; Numbers 15: 37-41).
Secondly, The Prayer took place, which was comprised of eighteen blessings and petitions.
Thirdly, there was a reading from the Torah or the Law. Then a reading took place from the Prophets, and finally, an explanation of the Scripture was a part of the synagogal liturgy which was concluded with the antiphonal chanting of a psalm.
Any of the men who were attending the service could be invited to read and give the explanation, and here is exactly where Jesus finds himself in this Sunday\'s Gospel passage.
\"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord\".
And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, \'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing\'. And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth...\" (Luke 4: 16-22).
What are the practical applications of this Sunday's gospel narrative?
First, the poor mentioned in the text that Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah does not refer to a social class of people, but rather to an essential posture that all believers need to have in their relationship with God.
Humility and total trust in God are necessary virtues for all those who call themselves believers.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus announces that the poor are blessed and theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Secondly, Jesus, the Messiah, has come to free us from the blindness and domination of sin. \"He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed..."
Once again we are reminded of the importance of the Sacrament of Confession. When we participate in this awesome sacrament, we are freed from the power and darkness of evil and sin. To be held captive by sin is a tyranny far worse than any physical tyranny that takes place in societies where totalitarianism exists. A person can be physically imprisoned, yet still be spiritually free.
The words of the Prophet Isaiah that Jesus read in the synagogue define the very mission of the Incarnate Word made flesh: to redeem man from sin. It is the mission of the Church to carry on this work of the Savior. Essentially, the mission of the Catholic Church is about eternal salvation.
Thirdly, since Jesus is participating in the Jewish liturgy of the synagogue on the Sabbath, we are reminded that we too are live out the Sabbath with delicate fidelity.
We need to go to church every Sunday unless we are sick or the weather keeps us inside our homes. We need to dress appropriately for Mass, because the church is God's house. We need to worship at Mass with full and conscious participation. Punctuality is a must.
The second aspect of our Sabbath is the prohibition from all unnecessary physical work.
"Just as God rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done, human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord\'s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.
On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord\'s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health" (Catechism of the Catholic Church; 2184, 2185).
This means that we are to do housework, yard work and shopping on other days, not on Sunday. Although it is true that some people will have to work because they are involved with service orientated professions (hospitals and restaurants), employers of these types of professions have a moral obligation to provide their employees time for worship and adequate rest.
Finally, today's Gospel narrative reminds us that we are to have a deep love for the Word of God. Jesus reads from the Sacred Scriptures. The Scriptures are the voice of God speaking to us. Do you own your own personal Bible? The Word of God needs to be the very soul of our spiritual life. Today's responsorial psalm reminds us of the importance of the Sacred Scriptures when we respond, "Your words, Lord are Spirit and Life."
The Word of God can speak to us every day by praying the Liturgy of the Hours, by meditating on the some passage of the Bible and by attending Mass every day.
Father James Farfaglia is a
contributing writer for Catholic Online and author of Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics. You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org
and listen to the audio podcast of this Sunday homily.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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