Find below my homily, mention of the readings for the day and accompanying prayers. I wish we could be together, but unfortunately, we will need to wait a bit yet until the COVID numbers are more under control. Please be safe and take good care of yourself–and for many of us, stay warm! Call, 507-429-3616 or email, email@example.com if I can help you in any way. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
Sing a new song to our God. Sing to God all the earth. Truth and beauty surrounds God—God lives in holiness and glory.
Let Us Pray
Gracious God, the love you offer always exceeds the furthest expression of our human longing, for you are greater than the human heart. Direct each thought, each effort of our life so that the limits of our faults and weaknesses may not obscure the vision of your glory or keep us from the peace you have promised. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, with you our Creator and the Spirit of us all—one God, living and loving us, forever and ever, Amen.
- Nehemiah 8: 2-4, 5-6, 8-10
- 1 Corinthians 12: 12-30
- Luke 1: 1-4; 4:14-21
My friends, this week, as I said in the bulletin, once again finds us apart physically and I believe, for this reason; we each have the responsibility to reach out to others in whatever ways that we can, especially to those who are more shut-in. And as I write this, the realization floods in upon me that due to COVID, even this suggestion has its limitations. Reach out though, just the same. Phone calls and snail mail cards are a wonderful way to brighten another’s day.
With the Christmas season past, you probably, like us, sent out greeting cards and received some in return, finding that your cards to others and theirs to you, “passed in the mail.” Once received, you discovered that you learned of news and events that you weren’t aware of. I have personally pulled out the cards where I learned of new things and resolved to send a follow-up note in the New Year.
With this in mind, today’s Scriptures have much to say about our personal relationship with our God and ultimately with each other in that regard, as one does lead, or should, to the other.
Ezra, the priest, and prophet in the setting for today’s first reading from Nehemiah, establishes for the Israelite people, just returned from exile, what their relationship with their God should be.
The people seem to be, “sad” and “fearful” with regard to their God, and Ezra says, “No,” this should not be your response. “Today is holy,” basically because your God loves you, even though you may have failed to be your best in the past, God will always give you a second chance, as long as you are willing to try! Ezra tells them and us that actually, rather than sadness and fear, your attitude should be one of “joy.” He encourages us all to celebrate with “rich food and sweet drinks,’ remembering to send, “a portion” to those who have none. And this seems to play into my opening remarks in how we should reach out to others, now.
Ezra also does a wonderful thing with regard to the people in encouraging a balance in their attitude toward God. When he stands before them to read the holy scroll, they stand, out of respect for the Word, which Ezra encourages and as he interprets the words, the people bow low and this seems to be related to their, “sadness and fear” over past failings.
And when you think about it, prior to the Second Vatican Council, for those of us alive then, we were taught to act in a similar way, “with fear and trembling” basically, and if we had a great love for God, it was “because He was willing to save us from our sins in Jesus,” a teaching, as you know, your pastor, along with noted theologians, has left behind.
The trouble with this theology was that it was hard to have a relationship with this mysterious God whose ways we found hard to wrap our minds, and less, our hearts around.
But Ezra and Nehemiah, who was said to be the “governor,” are clearly telling the people that this is not the case; but rather, “the joy” that their God feels over their return from exile and is a cause for celebration!
Before leaving this first reading, I wanted to comment further on the fact that in hearing the “holy Word” read, the people stood and said, “Amen.” I believe we all know and understand this word, “Amen” to mean, “So be it—I agree!”
Additionally, I believe it is important for each of us to have an open and relational commitment with our God in order that when we hear the holy Word read or a homily delivered, we have the opportunity to agree or disagree and that is why I present you each week with the word, “Amen” in the form of a question, so that you can respond, affirmatively, if you so choose, “Amen, so be it” and if you whole-heartedly agree, with an exclamation point!
The Word, read and “broken open” through a homily is always meant, to move us to action and this action is always easier to do, as Ezra says through the strength we acquire in knowing the “joy” our God takes in each one of us.
And for this reason, that our God does indeed feel “joy” in each one of us, we must reject that older theology that Jesus, our brother came and in fact, was sent, primarily and solely, to save us from our sins. Jesus came foremost, and simply, to show us how to live, how to spend our one, wonderful life, here, among our sisters and brothers.
Paul, in a continuation of his first letter to the Corinthians, “grows” this point. He writes about how “the body is one,” and even though, we are “many” and different, we are still one—with no one being more important than another. And he goes on saying that “we need” each other to be whole. He makes his point through the simple discussion of human body parts—the eye, the ear, the hand—stating that no one of these parts can function without the others. Then he moves on to the spiritual plane stating that being part of this wonderful body of so many means that we must reach out to others who are sorrowing, who are rejoicing and stand by them with whatever life brings, because, yes, we are all one, and what affects one, affects all, ideally.
And then, today’s Scriptures conclude with the beautiful recounting of Jesus’ reading of Isaiah’s words, in his hometown synagogue of Nazareth proclaiming that indeed, “the Spirit of God was upon him!”
And this same Spirit would assist him, going forward, “to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, release to prisoners and a year of favor from God.” And just in case, his hometown acquaintances didn’t fully realize what this action meant—that he wasn’t just “reading” Isaiah’s words, but going forward, he would be “doing” what Isaiah proclaimed that the Messiah would do, and then Jesus commented on the Scriptures, which was his right to do—”sealing the deal,” as it were— “Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled!”
My friends, I hoped you have picked up the awesomeness of what our brother, Jesus did in today’s gospel. Think of how he would have had to prepare to be able to walk into his hometown, realizing that many may not be able to accept what he would say, but to do it anyway, as the Spirit led him.
If we can hear these words with the “ear of our hearts,” then maybe we too can find the strength to speak and act with the power that Jesus did when we see wrongs perpetrated in our midst—whether in Church or State.
We may feel at times the same, “fear and sadness” that the people in Ezra’s time felt, but hopefully, in addition, we can remember the strength of the Spirit that led Jesus to act in his time, regardless of the consequences.
And when we don’t act “our best” in our present time, let us remember too, “the joy” that God felt for the Israelites, the same joy that God feels for each of us, knowing that this God will always give us another chance to “get it right!” Jesus told us while among us that “the Spirit is continually renewing the face of the earth,” and that can happen through us if we allow her to do that work in us.
Sister Joan Chittister often encourages those she speaks to and in her writing, “to listen with the ear of our hearts,” because she has come to know that this type of listening moves us to action.
“Listening with the ear of our hearts” is what allows us to speak kindly to another, to show patience in the midst of upset, to try and see another point of view, to understand that others may be carrying a heavy load and are doing the best that they can. This is what Paul is talking about today to the Corinthians. The Mystical Body calls us to this kind of thinking, feeling and action.
My friends, to follow Jesus, our brother, calls us to all that he did—lest his strength, his courage, his vision, his listening with the ear of his heart stop there; we too must step up and let his words be evident through us—that glad tidings are being brought to the poor, so many poor in so many ways, that the blind, who cannot see, in so many ways, now have sight, that those who are prisoners in body, mind and spirit have been set free and that truly these Scriptures are continuing to be fulfilled! Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful:
Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
1. Loving God, be with all elected officials—instill within each one, the wisdom of your Spirit to always keep what is best for the people in mind. Help all world leaders, to find the ways to peace, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
2. Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially those struggling with life—threatening illnesses—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
3. O God, help us to see you in the elderly, the weak, the young, ourselves, and treat all with the love and respect due them, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
4. O God, help us to strive to be people of peace—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it and help us to treat people and our world accordingly, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
5. For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, and inspire us in new ways to reach out this year to those most in need of our ministry, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
6. Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week—from COVID, from ignorance, and from all other causes, give them your peace, be with those our friends and relatives who are newly bereaved in this New Year, be with those remembering an anniversary of death at this time, to find their way through their grief, which we know, continues, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say their names out loud—
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, then response
Let Us Pray
Loving God, we thank you for your great love for us in sending us Jesus, our brother and friend. Help us to model our lives after his, selflessly giving to those in need, being people of truth, faith, and trust in your word. Let our lives reflect mercy, goodness, and joy to all that we meet. Help us as a faith community to realize our responsibility to always be welcoming of all who come to our table—help us to be good listeners, using the “ear of our hearts” of other’s stories, respecting their journeys to you even if the path they take is different from ours. Give us the strength each day to do our part. Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Creator, Savior, and Spirit—one God, who lives and loves us, forever and ever, Amen.
Prayer of Communion
Loving God, may the love you give us constantly, increase our love and hold us in the joy of your kin-dom. We ask this in Jesus’ name and with the Spirit, One God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.