January 27, 2019
First Reading: Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 8-10
Responsorial: Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15
Second Reading: 1 Cor 12:12-30
Gospel: Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Have you ever read a book with several plot twists and a surprising ending? The readings for today, like a book with a surprising ending, have several plot twists. In the first reading from the Old Testament, Ezra the priest opens the scroll and reads to the people, interpreting the passages as he reads. Whatever Ezra said to the people was very upsetting because they were crying by the end. But in a surprising twist, Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites tell the crowd to instead of being sad, go and celebrate the holy day with a feast. The crowd is also told in another plot twist to give part of the feast to those who had nothing ready.
In the second reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul uses a story about the body in order to redirect how the Corinthians understand spiritual gifts. Paul tells the crowd that the body isn’t a single part but rather made up of many parts and one part cannot do without the others. He also twists the story a bit by saying those body parts that seem the weakest are the most necessary while the parts we think of as most important really are not. Through this Paul is telling the Corinthians that God has made the body with different parts and there is no division in the body, with no missing parts. Further, he explains that if one part suffers, they all suffer. If the Corinthians wrongly thought they were better than one another, Paul writes a different ending to that story.
Finally, in today’s Gospel reading there is another plot twist with a surprising ending. At the start of the reading, we celebrate with Jesus as he comes back to preach his first sermon in Nazareth, his home town. Jesus stands to read the passage from the prophet Isaiah and announces justice for the poor, release of the captives, sight for the blind and assistance for those who are needy. What seems as good news for some people, may seem like bad news to those listening to Jesus speak because they may not want to do justice. The twist comes when he tells the assembled crowd that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled while they listened to him. That is not how the story is supposed to end. Jesus was supposed to read the scripture, not announce that this was the start of a divine future.
How open are we to plot twists and surprise endings? The lessons for this Sunday remind us that God is full of surprises and we might not know the ending. How would we respond to Jesus’ call for justice or Paul’s imagery of the community as all one body? These stories remind us that every day God keeps promises to each of us, no matter what twists and surprises we encounter.
Director of the Paul Bechtold Library