Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Ps 19: 8-10, 15; 1 Corinthians 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4, 14-21
The gospel of St. Luke today has Jesus beginning his public ministry. St. Luke was a disciple of Jesus. He knew of Mark and Matthew yet wanted to explain the Jesus story from the beginning. Luke wrote one third of the New Testament with his gospel and Acts of the Apostles.
In today’s section he begins after the baptism and 40 days in the desert. Jesus went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath, as all good Jews did, and stood up to do a reading. He was given the scroll of Isaiah and read 61:1-2. The Spirit of God was upon him to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed and to proclaim a year acceptable to God. (These are not direct quotes.) Then Jesus makes a startling announcement: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Astounding. This was his mission. What is more astounding is that by our own baptism, it is also our mission. This is divine power to help Jesus save humanity.
The joy of the gospel message is found in Jesus’ ministry and that of his church. That is why I have chosen to reflect these weeks on the second reading from St. Paul in 1 Corinthians. In today’s section Paul compares the human body and all of its parts to various gifts of the
Holy Spirit. Paul’s analogy is very powerful. We need all of our body parts to function well. Our body is the greatest electro-chemical machine on earth and more. It grew from two cells united inside of our mother. Our head contains a great computer system that controls all our body parts and functions, “24-7.” So our body is like Christ’s body the church all over the world. We are all gifted and share in the mission of Christ for others.
A few weeks ago we looked at our personal baptismal gifts: faith, hope and love, wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and respectful awe at God’s vastness. Last week we looked at some confirmation gifts. They empower us with God’s power for helping others. They are different, varied and many. Last week we looked at: words of wisdom and knowledge; faith, healing and miracles; prophecy, discernment of spirits, various tongues and interpretation of tongues, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. This week Paul adds another list which is more paid ministries within the church: apostles (bishops), prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, assistants and administrators, 1 Cor 12:28.
His third list in Romans 12:6-8, adds exhortation (preaching), giving alms (freely beyond 10%), tithing, servant leadership, physical and spiritual works of mercy. His fourth list, Ephesians 4:11, adds, evangelists and pastors. There St. Paul instructs us that these gifts are “in roles of service to build up the Body of Christ on earth, first our local parish and some called for greater outreaches.“
As we use these “service gifts,” we bear good fruit for Christ’s kingdom: love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith mildness, self-control or chastity, Galatians 5:22. These are the fruit we bear, mentioned about the “trees of life,” in Revelation 22:1-2. These fruits are the quiet radiant beauty graces of a mature disciples of Jesus. These take time to grow in Jesus.
Next week we will look at 16 aspects of love. All this is a great deal to think about. The Jewish faith was created by God to reach out and bring many others to know and love God. Jesus was sent to move that plan out to save all of humanity. All of us baptized share in Jesus’ mission for all peoples yet in slightly different ways. So we come to Jesus and see what gifts the Holy Spirit has equipped us with. We all have different combinations of gifts, like all the different parts of our human body. We are not to work against one another in the church. We are to support, encourage and work with one another to help bring the joy of God’s love to others. The sacraments and our daily prayer life give us the divine power to continue the work Jesus spoke about in the gospel passage today.
Be of good cheer and filled with joy for with Jesus as our shepherd and leader we win against all the darkness around us.
Be filled with his peace and joy,
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2016 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR)