My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
This has been a very challenging week for us in our Church here in Los Angeles because the release of some of the files of priests who had been publicly accused of abuse of minors in the past.
Today we want to especially pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church. We’ll continue to work to bring healing for the victims of sexual abuse by priests, to continue our policy of reporting those matters to the competent authorities and we also want to renew and strengthen our ongoing commitment to the protection of children in the Archdiocese.
Let us then, pray for one another and for our local Church of Los Angeles. Let us also ask for the grace to keep striving to be faithful to Jesus Christ and to build his Kingdom of truth and love. We know that our God is good, and that he loves us all with a Father’s love.
The readings that we have just heard in this holy Mass present us with strong pictures of our Church as the Family of God and the Body of Christ.
The Church is a mystery. And each one of us is a part of this mystery. St. Paul tells us today in our second reading that we are all parts of the Mystical Body of Christ. Each one of us belongs to this family of God that has been called together by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
That’s the picture that we see in both our first reading and in our Gospel today.
As I’m sure you noticed, in our first reading, from the Book of Nehemiah, the scene looks a lot like what we are doing here today in this beautiful Cathedral.
As we heard, the people of God were all assembled — men, women and children. And the scribe Ezra was standing at a platform in front of them. And he was reading from the Book of the Law of God.
The people were listening with their full attention — it says they were listening from break of day until noon. I think we are all thankful that our liturgies today do not last that long!
But the point is this: The people were listening because this was not the word of Ezra, the word of a man that they were hearing. They were listening because they knew that what they were hearing was really the Word of God.2
This is an amazing and beautiful truth about our God, my brothers and sisters! Our God speaks to us! He speaks to us through his Book — through the Bible, the Sacred Scriptures.
He speaks to us personally when we are reading the Bible. And he speaks to us all together, when we are gathered as the family of God in the Eucharist, in our Liturgy of the Word.
This is how much our Father loves us, my brothers and sisters! He wants to be in conversation with us. Like a Father talking to his children in love.
Our God has been speaking to his people throughout all of history, since the first days of creation. The Bible tells us that God was talking to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He talked to Abraham and Moses and to King David and to the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah.
And God is still talking to his people.
This is one of the reasons we come to Mass every Sunday. So that we can hear the Word that God wants to speak to us. We are doing the same thing as the people of God have always done. We are doing the same thing that Jesus Christ used to do when he was living on earth.
That’s what we see in our Gospel reading for today.
This passage of the Gospel that we just heard tells us another story about the early days of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus has been preaching and teaching in all the synagogues in the area around Galilee.
People are all starting to talk. They are all excited by what he is teaching.
So in the passage we just heard, Jesus has gone home to Nazareth, where he grew up. And as he always does, he goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.
My brothers and sisters, it is very interesting to think about this: Jesus Christ used to go the synagogue every week to listen to the Word of God. Just like we go to Church every Sunday.
We know that he started this custom from the time he was a little boy, going with his Blessed Mother Mary and St. Joseph.3 And Jesus heard many of the same readings and Psalms from the Old Testament that we hear in our Liturgy of the Word.
So on this day that we heard about in our Gospel passage, Jesus is the lector. And he reads a beautiful selection from the book of the prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me ...
to bring glad tidings to the poor ...
to proclaim liberty to the captives and sight to the blind.
Then, as we heard, Jesus tells the people: Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.
Jesus Christ is saying something amazing here, my brothers and sisters! He is saying that he is the Word of God come in the flesh. He is the Word that God wants to speak to us.4
Jesus Christ is telling us today that when we read the Gospels, when we hear his Word in our Eucharistic celebrations — he is really present and he is really speaking to your heart and to mine.
So the Gospels are a great treasure for us! In the Gospels we have the words that came from the lips of Jesus. We have the stories that were handed down from eyewitnesses, written down by people inspired by God.5
This is the Year of Faith and we should be developing new habits of faith and devotion. One habit we need is this: We should never let a single day go by without reading some selection from the Gospels. Just one story from his life. Even a short saying of Jesus.
The people in the synagogue that we hear about today couldn’t keep their eyes off Jesus.
That’s how we need to read the Gospels, my brothers and sisters! We need to look at Jesus all the time — at how he acts, how he responds to the situations in his life. We need to listen to his words and ponder them in our hearts, just like his Blessed Mother used to.6
So today my brothers and sisters, let us make a new resolution to listen to God’s Word and to respond to his Word in love. Let us be doers of the Word and not only hearers.7 As the people in Ezra’s time did, let us say, Amen! Not only with our lips, but also with our lives.
And let us ask for all these things through the intercession of the patroness of this great Archdiocese, Our Lady of the Angels.
1. Readings (Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C): Neh. 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Ps. 19:8-10, 15; 1 Cor. 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21.
2. 1 Thess. 2:13.
3. Luke 2:39-52.
4. Rev. 19:14.
5. 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21.
6. Luke 2:19; Col. 3:16.
7. James 1:22.