C Cycle – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
Lk. 1: 1-4, 4:14-21
Why were all the people crying as they listened to Ezra read from the book of the law? Isn’t the law a list of “thy shall nots” which we must obey so as to be “righteous in God’s sight.” Perhaps they were weeping because they began to realize it is impossible to please God thus they were doomed to everlasting damnation. If that is true then why did Ezra say, do now be sad, do not weep, go eat and drink, be merry and rejoice in the Lord. Was he trying to give them hope? Was he telling them a spiritual truth about the law being much more than a list of rules and requirements for us to be in God’s grace?
In my homily last week, I said the “laws are a mirror, reflecting to us our sinfulness and our need for a savior.” The people were weeping for joy not out of sorrow. Remember Ezra was not only reading the laws, but he was also instructing them. Giving them insights into the law’s purpose and God’s faithfulness. Their tears were flowing because they were encountering the faithfulness of God and his promises to them. Despite their sins God promises them restoration and forgiveness and he would remember their sins no more.
They misunderstood how all that would happen, but they were coming to the realization that they failed to trust God and were renewed in their belief and were overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness. Ezra was encouraging them to do more than follow the law, for he was telling them trust in the promises of God who promised never to abandon them.
The real issue for us today as we look back on the history of God and his people is how do we sustain our own belief and trust in God when it seems God is silent. The only way to answer that question is for everyone to understand the bible is a complete story that unfolds God’s purpose for us today. We can read one verse, one chapter, one book and be inspired enough to change and like the people before Ezra feel the presence of God. But feelings cannot sustain us for very long because they are an emotional response to an event. We need more than an emotional response to the gospel; we need to move from feeling to knowing.
The people of Ezra’s time had only the Word of God, the law, and the prophets but in those books revealed the promised of God to restore them, to forgive them, to change their hearts and to send the Spirit who would write his law on every heart. Those promises should move us from dependence on the law written on stone to a law written on our hearts. Now that is worth rejoicing over and should cause us to weep for joy because our righteousness is a gift of love. It was six hundred years after Ezra when the promised messiah stepped into the midst of the people and declared he was the one God promised through the prophet Isaiah.
We need to listen intently to his words, not just hear them without engaging with them. I want you to take a moment of reflection as I read those words Jesus read. Close your eyes for a moment and listen and allow one of those promises to penetrate your heart and mind and respond internally to his words.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me for he has anointed me, to bring glad tidings to the poor. He sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
Because we depend on the law for our holiness, we know how it condemns us, breaks our spirit, and cause us to lose hope. Christ is telling us those emotions are from the one who wants us defeated, broken and without hope. The scriptures reassure us that we are not condemned but embraced. Paul the Apostle knew this truth as wrote “there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rm.8:1). If anyone understood God’s forgiveness and love it was Saul of Tarsus.
That is the good news, the glad tidings he wants us to take to heart. For he has taken the guilt of our sins upon himself and removed the barrier of sin between us and God. We are no longer captive to sin because the Spirit will change us and give us more than will power to overcome sin. The Spirit will give us the ability to stand before overwhelming temptation and defeat it not just resist it.
Jesus said he would open our eyes to the reality of who he is and who we are as brothers and sisters equipped for holiness and gifted to build up the body of Christ. This is the time; this is the moment, and this is our God’s desire for us. Those words of Jesus should create in us the same response the words of Ezra created in the people who were defeated, broken, abandoned, and needing to know God’s love for them had never changed.
It is time for us to stop just listening to the gospel, stop doubting God’s promises, stop trying to please God and begin rejoicing for our God is with us. Our God sent us a savior and his name is Jesus. Or God promised to change us so the eyes of our hearts would be able to see and weep for joy as we grasp the depth of his love.
Our God desires us to do more than want to be a slave in his house as did the prodigal, but he wants us to allow him to clothe us in righteousness. Embracing Christ as Lord because Christ said he was the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to the Father.
The gospel story does not end on Calvary we have to read the end of the story It goes on telling us God desires none to perish and for all to live in his presence. Both here on earth and after we have competed our mission here on earth as bearers of Christ to others.