Today we have wonderful readings that speak to the creative force of the Word of God. In the first reading, the Word of God forming a community by calling to mind the presence of God, calling to mind the direction and future that come from following God’s law. Then we hear from St Paul about that community’s identity as the Body of Christ, made up of different members, each with different gifts, working together as one. And then in our gospel today, we have Jesus announcing the fulfilment of the word of prophecy. Jesus announces that the words he has just read are not only alive, the future they point to is beginning right now, among us.
These readings then become a test of faith for us. They set out a challenge before us, one that God expects us to me, one God is forming us to meet. What is the challenge that we are presented with? Well, what does Jesus say to the synagogue?
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.
If God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, then Jesus is saying this to us today. More than that, though, as St Paul points out, we are the Body of Christ. So, God is saying this through us. God is saying this again to our neighbours and God has formed us into his mouthpieces. Our community’s task is to keep on saying this until the end of time.
So, how are we saying this? To whom are we saying this? Who are the poor who need to hear this? What are the different forms of poverty we see around us today? Obviously, loss of community, loss of meaning, loss of direction.
How are people imprisoned these days? Are they shackled by fear of disease? Are their prisons addictions of various kinds, be they drugs, or porn, or online isolation, or lust for wealth?
How is our community blind today? What suffering are people not seeing? And who are the downtrodden who need to be lifted up by the Good news?
As parishes, these are the questions that must concern us. And we must answer them together. As the Body of Christ. So, how do we become a visibly joyful community, a community of love and service, one who can say with credibility and integrity what Ezra said in our first reading. Can we look people in the eye and say, “Do not mourn. Do not weep. Because Christ is alive. He loves you and he is with you forever.” Do we have the faith to do that? Are we at least trying to live it, so as to build up that credibility?
This is a very important task. As we all know, people have been starved of community. People need hope. They need good news. They need something to believe in. They desperately need us to step up.
This week then, let’s ask ourselves these questions. How as a parish do we meet God’s challenge? A challenge that is not meant to cripple us, but to build us up, build us up so that we can truly be the people of God who speak the words of God, with the authority of those who know they are loved completely.