Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 23, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 / Ps 19 / 1 Cor 12:12-30 / Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn 1:1).” Today is the “Sunday of the Word of God,” established by Pope Francis on September 30, 2019, in his apostolic letter, Aperuit illis. September 30 was not a random date, either. It is the feast day of St. Jerome, who translated the scriptures into the common language of his day, Latin. He is famous for saying “Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” which would be a good theme for today’s homily.
However, there’s another theme; it’s from John 1:39. Two of John the Baptist’s disciples asked Jesus, “Where are you staying?” Jesus replied, “Come and see.” “They came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day…” To read the scriptures or to listen to the scriptures being read, is to go to where Jesus is staying, and to spend some time with Him.
Pope Francis picked the perfect Sunday for reverencing the scriptures. The readings today are phenomenal!
In the first reading, the people listened to God’s word for half a day and laid face down on the ground and cried. Why? Let’s put their situation in context. Imagine that this church was destroyed by an invading country, and we were all forced to leave our homes and to move to a foreign land where we were oppressed for many years and denied the freedom to read the Bible or to go to Mass.
And then one day, we are allowed to return and to rebuild this church. And someone finds this book of Gospels preserved in the ruins and opens it to today’s gospel. We hear them read the words about the Spirit of the Lord being upon Jesus and His announcing glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, and the oppressed going free. Then we hear Jesus say that mic-drop line, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing (Luke 4:21)!” I’m guessing that we would have dropped on our knees and tears of joy would have fallen down our cheeks. We would be like the Israelites who had just returned from seventy years of exile listening to Ezra in the first reading.1
To put this further in perspective, Peter Kreeft wrote that we must understand that the scriptures were the Jews’ “link to God, His will for them, their umbilical cord to God…it was their relationship to God. It was for them almost what Jesus is for us.”2 This is why they wept when hearing it for the first time in seventy years, why they bowed and put their faces on the ground.
Reverencing God’s word makes sense, because it is “living and active,” made so by the Holy Spirit through whom it was written (Aperuit illis; DV 12; 21) It is so important to our lives, that the fathers of the Second Vatican Council dedicated to scripture one of only four Constitutions promulgated after the council. It is called Dei Verbum or Divine Revelation. In it they quote St. Augustine, who wrote that the Church “wants the whole world to hear the summons to salvation, so that through hearing, it may believe, through belief it may hope, through hope it may come to love. (Dei Verbum 1)
Scripture is a summons to salvation, because it tells the story of our salvation. Hearing it leads to belief, because the words contain the power of God. Believing leads to hope, because we all know deep down that we need saving in some way. And that hope leads to love, because it casts out despair, freeing us to work for the good of others. This response of belief, hope, and love requires what the Council Fathers called the “interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God and opens the eyes of the mind and makes it easy to accept and believe the truth” (DV 5).
Speaking of “opening the eyes of the mind” to increase belief, in his apostolic letter, Pope Francis reminds us about a story of Jesus after His Resurrection. Jesus opened the eyes of two dejected disciples on the road to Emmaus by explaining the scriptures to them, and then revealed Himself to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24). Thus, in every Mass, we walk with Jesus while the scripture is proclaimed and the homily is given. We recognize Him when Father breaks the bread. Pope Francis points out that scripture “unites believers and makes them one people.” In that regard, it is like the Eucharist which makes us a Holy Communion.
Scripture is also like the Eucharist in how it nourishes us. Our faith is nourished and gets its very vitality from God’s word. Therefore, if we want to be fully alive, all of us, young and old, must immerse ourselves in it. How can we do that? Put a Bible app on your phone. Listen to Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year podcast. Teens, if your parents get aggravated when you can’t hear them because you have earbuds in, you can truthfully tell them you were listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz’s podcast. That’s got to be worth a free trip to DQ.
Here are a few more ways to immerse yourself in God’s Word. Subscribe to Bishop Barron’s daily gospel reflections. Type “Daily Readings” in your phone’s browser and listen to them being read from the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ website. Participate in your parish Bible studies or start one with neighbors or co-workers. [HNM parishioners can come to Catholic Café between the Masses and learn, while the children are in class learning.] Get the Hallow app, where you can listen to Jeff Cavins’ daily gospel reflections & pray the rosary with scriptural commentary for each mystery by Scott Hahn and Bishop Barron. You can even listen to the Bible in a Year podcast on Hallow, but with relaxing music or ocean sounds in the background. Buy the commentary on St. Luke’s gospel by Fr. Pablo Gadenz to more deeply immerse yourself in this year’s Sunday gospel readings. Also, consider the book of reflections by Peter Kreeft on this year’s Mass readings that I quoted from today. It’s called “Food for the Soul.”
Here is another tip. When something in the scriptures jumps out at you, write it down and place it where you can look at it regularly. Take it to prayer, asking the Holy Spirit why He highlighted it for you. Finally, if you are like me and must change passwords every so often, use Bible verses as passwords, like John 3:16, and every time you log in, recite the verse so that your mind is blessed, and so you can commit it to memory.
To spend time with scripture is to go and see where Jesus is and to stay there with Him, for the Word is God (Jn 1:1; 39). St. Augustine said that when we pray, we speak to God (but sometimes we can’t hear Him speaking back; it’s just silence). When we read scripture, God speaks to us. Prayer becomes a conversation when we pray with the scriptures. All we need is thirty minutes a day.
It is said that we can’t buy time, but we Christians can buy those thirty minutes by partially fasting from things that don’t have eternal importance, like TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ESPN, news sites, YouTube, hobbies, you-name-it. If you don’t want to do that, consider sanctifying time by listening to scripture when your body is busy, but your mind is free, like driving time, house cleaning or yard work time, mealtime, or the last minutes before falling asleep.
What might you hear Jesus say to you when you do these things? Feeling down over sinning for the umpteenth time? “The mercies of the Lord are not spent. They are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) Know someone who is feeling lost and forsaken and think they are unforgivable? “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:1;4) Suffering from chronic pain or illness or anxiety? “We suffer all kinds of afflictions and yet are not overcome.” (2 Corinthians 4:8) It is as if Jesus said, “Everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8)
Jesus, You asked us to “come and see” where You stay. Help us to break out of the rut we are in, so that we may go to see where You are in the scriptures and spend time there with You each day that we may grow in friendship with You and so You can lead us on Your way. Amen.
 “Food for the Soul” by Peter Kreeft. Pg 362.
 “Food for the Soul” by Peter Kreeft. Pg 363.