A good friend in Michigan sends me a “T” shirt with a message on it for my birthday each year. This year’s message was “When all else fails read the directions.” (in the Bible). That’s a good conversation starter but a person doesn’t need to wait for a failure but needs to let God talk to each of us every day by way of Scripture. Some people try to read the Bible cover to cover every year. That’s nice but, I believe it’s more important not to take every word literally true but to search out God’s truths by following a program which helps a person find God’s truths in the passages assigned to each day. That simplifies locating God’s truths. The Bible is divided into 7 sections, The Pentateuch (The Torah), The Historical Books, The Books of Wisdom, The Prophetic Books, The Gospels, the New Testament Letters and the Catholic Letters. Each of these books contain God’s truths.
Today’s first reading from Nehemiah, one of the Historical books covers that portion of the history of the Jews when they returned to Israel after having been in exile in Babylon for 70 years and had already rebuilt the temple and the city walls. Ezra was leading the people in a Covenant Renewal Ceremony in which he read and explained the Torah, God’s Law from morning till noon and the people realized the many ways in which they had failed to keep God’s Commandments. Tears of repentance followed by singing “Your words are spirit and life”, today’s Psalm 19 in rededicating themselves to God and his law. Nehemiah essentially told them that repentance is necessary but they shouldn’t let it sap their strength but rather rejoice in the Lord for God is our strength and use that strength to provide for those who have little and that truth/message is God’s message to each of us. So God’s truth which is contained in this reading is, repentance is needed and good and is meant to be the beginning of everlasting improvement.
In today’s 2nd reading Paul was addressing a mixture of people of various ethnic groups with varied talents, a combination which occasionally caused divisions that threatened its unity just like parishes. Paul was attempting to convince them and each of us, that we each have equal value in God’s eye and that each of them needed to use their individual gifts to, as a group, complement one another and thereby glorify God and not themselves.
In our Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus is the one doing the reading from the Prophetic Book, Isaiah, and he did what appears to be something he wasn’t afraid to do, that is, stir up controversy by acknowledging one or more of God’s truths as he read, “The Lord’s Spirit has come to me because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers, and to say, ‘This is the year the Lord has chosen.’” He concluded by saying, “What you have just heard me read has come true today.” Meaning that Isaiah is talking about him, that is, he is the Messiah. As we will hear next Sunday, once the people thought about what he had said, they threw him out of town.
In each of these readings we see that the Word of God is Sacramental in the sense that, when it is spoken, read or heard, God becomes present in our midst. In order for that to happen for us, we must listen to the Word, accept that truth into our heart and put it into practice as we live our lives. And it doesn’t need to be the last resort but rather the first. As we heard God’s truth in the reading from Nehemiah is repentance is necessary but it is to the beginning of everlasting improvement; and God’s truth in Paul’s letter is we are all equal in God’s eyes and have an important role to play; and God’s truth in today’s gospel is that Jesus is our Messiah, our Lord and Savior.