Your Words Are Spirit And Life


3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

Fr.  Mark Gatto

Preached: January 23, 2022

You words are spirit and life.  This Third Sunday in Ordinary time is now known within the Catholic Church as Bible Sunday, a day for us to reflect on the gift of the word of God expressed in the Scriptures.  The reading of Sacred Scriptures within the community is an ancient tradition within our faith.

Our first reading today tells the story of Ezra having the Law being read before all the people gathered together.  This was about 400 years before the coming of Jesus.  The Book of the Law they were reading from was probably from the Pentateuch, the first five books of our Bible today.  It was connected to Moses.  We hear that the Levites read from the Law and then gave interpretation so that the people understood the reading.

Then we see Jesus in the Gospel come into the synagogue in Nazareth, his home town.  It says that it was his custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath.  There he gets up and reads from the  scroll of the Prophet Isaiah.  The passage he reads to them is interpreted to be connected to his life and mission.

In our two thousand year Catholic tradition, a constant practice when we gather to worship is to have the Sacred Scriptures proclaimed.  There are two parts of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Word and Sacrament are connected.  In fact, the primary place for the reading of the Scriptures is within the church gathered for worship.  Like the people gathered around Ezra 2400 years ago, like the people in the synagogue at the time of Jesus, like Christians throughout church history, when we gather as the people of God, we listen to the Scriptures proclaimed in our midst.

As Catholics, the Bible as our Sacred Scriptures is to be the soul of our theology and spirituality.  St. Jerome said that the ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ.  We are all called to read, pray with, and study the Scriptures.  How can we deepen our knowledge and prayer with the Bible?  On the home page of our parish website, there is a link to biblical resources provided from the Diocese of Hamilton to assist us in studying and praying with the Bible.  I encourage you to go there to use these resources.

But, throughout our faith tradition, from the time of Ezra in our first reading, to the time of Jesus in the synagogue on the sabbath, and throughout church history, the primary place of reading the Scriptures is to listen to them proclaimed in the gathering of the people of God.

As Catholics, when we gather on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist we listen to Scripture readings that are provided in a Lectionary.  It provides readings for each Sunday over a three year cycle.  This year we are in Year C, with a focus on the Gospel of Luke.  Wherever you went to Mass this Sunday anywhere in the world, you would have heard these same readings that we just heard.

The priest does not choose readings, but takes the readings provided by the church in the Lectionary.  Each Catholic who was at Mass throughout the world this Sunday heard the same readings that we just heard.  Including the Pope in Rome or the smallest church in far away countries.

Our practice is to also use a Book of the Gospels.  The Gospel reading is found in this Book.  It is meant to highlight the central importance of the Gospels in our reading of the Bible.

If you were to ask me how to start praying with the Bible, I would recommend that you begin by using the readings from the Lectionary.  Each week before Sunday, pray with the Gospel for that Sunday, and then if possible to the other readings.  Take out your Bible and read around those readings if necessary to get a fuller context.  If you have read, studied and prayed with the readings before you come to Mass on Sunday, the Liturgy of the Word will become more alive for you.

Your words are spirit and life.  We join the ancient tradition of listening to the Sacred Scriptures proclaimed when we are gathered as the people of God.  Let this word touch your mind and heart by reading, studying and praying the Bible.

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