3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 28, 2019 (Thoman)
Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 | I Cor 12:12-30 | Lk 1:1-4, 4:14-21
I. One week ago (today) someone asked me if – when preparing homilies – I was
intimidated by the events of the world in formulating the message of the homily.
In response to that question, I guess I would stop short of using the word
“intimidation,” but I would say I carefully choose the examples I use in a homily.
I believe homilies should be relevant! They should be based on careful exegesis
of the scriptural word and applied to real life, present day living. We should be
able to go home with at least one point to ponder.
- They should not be innocuous reflections upon past events.
- They should not be filled with fluffy, feel good, pious platitudes that sound nice, but really don’t carry any substantial meaning.
- A homily should not be a theological lecture, although theology might explain a main point.
- A homily should not be about issues or problems we can’t do anything about.
- A homily should be honestly based on the proclaimed word of God.
- Sometimes homilies do affirm our faith and renew our hope.
- And we need to admit that sometimes homilies should challenge our way of thinking – expand our horizons – and move us to definitely apply God’s word to everyday life.
II. But choosing those examples from everyday life is tricky business. Being too
cautious or intimidated can lead to a homily that ends up filled with “niceties,”
but really doesn’t help us become better disciples of Jesus.
The first reading from Nehemiah recounts a covenant renewal ceremony.
The people listened to the word of God proclaimed to them from daybreak until
midday and at the end of it they were weeping. They were weeping because
they were deeply moved by the word of God. Ezra encouraged them to rejoice!
I don’t recall anyone having wept after I gave a homily! At least not the whole
And in the gospel the reaction of the people in the synagogue is the exact
opposite. Jesus – home-town-boy-made-good – is invited to proclaim the
scriptural message that day. He reads from the prophet Isaiah and at the end
says that this message is being fulfilled today – in me. He didn’t drift into the
past and give a pious homily about what a great prophet Isaiah was. Instead, he
applied the scriptural message to the present moment. He invited his listeners to
think outside the box: to consider that he is the fulfillment of the message. This
blew their mind! Jesus was challenging their preconceptions. They were so
upset they wanted to throw Jesus off the edge of a cliff.
As far as I know, no one has ever desired to throw me off the edge of a cliff,
but people have become upset. Whether a homily has ever changed someone’s
life, I don’t know.
III. The point of this homily is that the word of God should change us. The word of
God should rise upon every other word or words that surround us on a daily
basis. The word of God proclaimed by the lector or the priest or deacon is not the
same as reading the newspaper to us. It’s not the same as the word we read in a
blog or in an article on the Internet or a novel or a textbook or any other printed
or spoken word. The word of God should rise to the top and stand out by itself
causing reflection, moving our heart, expanding our thinking and ultimately
moving us to action.
If it doesn’t do that, then what good is it? The word of God would become
just as mundane as most other words we encounter.
IV. The word of God proclaimed by scripture is a word which calls for action. God’s
message proclaimed Isaiah takes concrete shape in Jesus: it is Jesus’ mission to
bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, to give sight to the
blind, to set the oppressed free. As members of the body of Christ, Jesus’ mission
is our mission.
Recently I heard a lovely story which illustrates the word becoming real in
A shoemaker was told in a dream that he would see Jesus the next day. So,
he waited in his store all day long. The only one who came in the morning was a
senior citizen. His shoes were worn out. The shoemaker gave him a fresh pair at no
charge. In the afternoon came an older woman. She was hungry. The shoemaker
promptly gave her his own lunch. As evening approached, a child came in crying
bitterly. She was lost. The shoemaker knew the girl’s mother – made a phone call
- and took her home. Returning to the store, he was certain that he had missed
his meeting with the Christ. Then he heard a voice say to him. "...I kept my word.
Three times today I came to your door. Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was the beggar with bruised feet. I was the woman you gave food to eat. I was
the lost child you took home."
V. Here is a man who put the word of God to practice in everyday life – even
being unaware he was doing it.
The word of God is of little value if all we do is passively listen to it in
church and then go home.
- What do I need to do to allow the word of God to touch me more deeply?
- If I take the word of God to heart, what is one difference it would make in
Fr. Dwayne Thoman