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SUNDAY SCRIPTURES FOR JAN. 22 | As members of the Body of Christ, we are all connected

THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME | As we move through reading the Gospel of Luke, we should view ourselves as ‘Beloved of God’

Theophilis, meaning “Beloved of God,” is the “person” to whom the Gospel of Luke is addressed. My hope is that each of us will include ourselves in that invitation. The writer of the Gospel of Luke writes this testimony so that we can “realize the certainty of the teachings that we have received.” For most of this coming year, we will be reading from the Gospel of Luke.

Setting the stage for this new year of grace that we are embarking on, we hear from the prophet Nehemiah, addressing the people in the name of God. The third Sunday of Ordinary Time also includes a reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, in which he tries to convince us again that we are members of the Body of Christ, connected with one another. The reading from the Gospel of Luke moves quickly from the introduction to chapter 4, where we see Jesus coming to the synagogue, quoting the prophet Isaiah, chapter 61, and announcing that the Scripture is fulfilled in the hearing of the audience.

This is quite a beginning for us as we try to reset our minds and hearts after the holidays. The Scriptures continue to speak to us in the midst of this pandemic and the serious disagreements and divisions among us. These readings can clearly teach us something that we need to hear right now, rather than hearing them as a remembrance of the past. What particular lessons are offered to you through these readings this weekend?

Ezra, the scribe and priest, and Nehemiah, the personal cup bearer to the king, are trying to encourage the Jewish people and call them back to believe in God’s promises. Are you aware of any ways in which you may have allowed your life to drift away from God further than you wish or further than God would wish? Have you noticed that you are becoming more cynical and hopeless and finding it difficult to believe the promises of God are being fulfilled? What can you do at the beginning of this new year as a daily practice that would draw you back to a closer walk with God? What aspect of the life of Jesus or what virtue that He practiced would you like to have more evident in your life? What will you do to make that happen? As we hear in Luke’s Gospel, is the word of God being fulfilled through us for others to see?

We can use the reading from Paul as a guideline to set our relationships right in the world. Each of us are part of the same body. Some of our hearts and minds may need conversion for us to believe the word of God. We have, at least some of us, begun to believe that some lives are worthless, and we have lived as if we are disconnected to them. What will it take for us to set aside our own so-called wisdom to allow the wisdom of God to transform our minds and hearts? Paul pays special attention to the weakest members of the body or the members of the body who are not esteemed. Thousands of years after Paul wrote this letter, we still act as if some of us are more important than others. We even sometimes dismiss the weaker among us and pretend as if we are not connected with them. We must examine our choices about living lives that are against the wisdom of God. God wishes abundant life and great joy for us, but that cannot happen if we don’t treat each other as members of one body. What practice will each of us begin so that we are able to allow God to transform our minds and hearts?

I look forward to our journey through the Gospel of Luke and pray for each of you, as I hope you will for me, that we draw closer to our God, who loves us beyond measure. I also pray that we are each humble enough to allow God’s love to change us and mold us.

Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.

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