Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21
The Word of God is Salvific.
Today, the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year C is the Sunday of the Word of God. In today’s readings, we shall see the power, liberating and salvific nature of the Word of God.
The word of God is salvific. Salvific means something that has the intent or power to save or redeem. It is something that has a liberating power of anointing power to free someone.
The word of God is salvific, it has the liberating and anointing power to change anyone. It saves us from eternal damnation and also saves us from worldly mistakes. If we walk by the light of His Word, we shall not make mistakes.
The Word of God is of God.
The Word of God is first of all “of God”. The word “of” indicates possession or belongingness. Therefore, the word of God comes from God. It is all about God. And If it is all about God, it means to listen to it is to listen to the voice of God. Then to listen to the voice of God is to listen to the source of eternal life.
This is the reason we say that the word of God is salvific. To listen to it is to listen to the source of our salvation. To listen to it is to listen to a source of wisdom, the source of blessings, the source of freedom, liberation, power, grace and spiritual strength.
The problem today is that we do not have time to read and meditate on the word of God. We call it God’s word, yet we don’t have time to listen to God’s word. It is funny.
The first reading and the gospel present to us different settings in which the people heard the word of God and also their response to the word that they heard.
The Word of God should be Central to Our Existence.
In the first reading, we see how the people were eager to hear the word of God again. Then, after the word was read to them, their hearts were broken knowing how unfaithful they have been. Their attitude shows how they take the word of God and how the word of God is central to their lives.
It also reveals how we have to take the word of God too as something central to our salvation. If it is central to our salvation, then it should be part and parcel of our existence as Christians and human beings even.
Then in the gospel after reading the word of God, Jesus says that all the promises are now fulfilled in Him.
If the contents of God’s law finds its fulfillment in and through Jesus, it means that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s law. He is the word of God and everything comes to fulfilment through Him.
Then if the word of God takes flesh in Jesus, we owe the word of God our respect and obedience. Therefore, listening to the word of God should give us joy. The word of God is salvific and not burdensome as many of us think.
The first reading happened after the Israelites came back from exile. Remember that it was their faithlessness and sin that made God punish them.
They neglected the worship of God, neglected His laws and began to worship foreign gods and idols. Because of that, God punished them severely. So the first reading for today is an account of a religious assembly that the people held after their exilic experience.
There, Ezra read the book of the law to the hearing of all, from early morning till noon. All the people listened attentively to it.
It is worthy to note that in this chapter of Nehemiah, Ezra read the book of the law for the day after for seven days. The people were filled with great joy and they celebrated after. This shows how they take God’s word as central to their existence as the people of God.
In the same vein, we should not neglect the word of God. If we are truly the people of God, the word of God should be central to whatever we do.
The word of God should be central to our existence as His children. We should not allow a day to pass without listening to His word.
If we can feed the body with physical food, we should also note that we have to feed the souls with its salvific food because the word of God is salvific to the soul. We do not have to neglect it.
We have To Desire the Word.
When you read the first reading from the first verse, you will observe that It is the people who urged Ezra to read the Law (v.1). They were very attentive, notwithstanding the long hours this took.
Ezra did not force the law upon them. They desire to hear and understand it. The people are grieved over the reading, possibly because it revealed their faithlessness and neglect for the word.
We see in them the desire to listen to the word of God. Can we also have such an intense desire to listen to God’s word every day?
Can we also show how we miss listening to the word of God? Even the people heard the word today, they were full of tears but Ezra told them not to be mournful or weep. He then said, ‘Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.’Therefore, there was a great sense of joy after hearing it.
This attitude today is because of the way the law is relevant and applicable to the people in the time of Ezra. It was like a turning point in their lives.
We can see similar joy for the law in the amazement of the people who heard Jesus’ proclamation in the gospel (Luke 4:22).
Therefore, the word of God is salvific. Today’s message is all about the life-giving, liberating, renewing, releasing, freeing, sight-giving nature of God’s Word, the joy that it can engender and the joy of wanting to hear and do it.
The salvific nature of the word of God came to fulfilment in Jesus, the Emmanuel, and the Word Made Flesh.
The Salvific nature of the Word Through Jesus.
1. The gospel reading today says that after the temptation by the devil, Jesus returns to Galilee under the power of the Holy Spirit. His reputation begins to spread throughout the country. Jesus also teaches in their synagogues and everyone praises him.
Then when He came to Nazara, where He grew up, then went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually does. They handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:
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.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’
2. Jesus’ preaching today ended with “today” but analytically starts with the word “Today”. It is like saying “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Today I bring good news to the poor. Today I proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. Also, today I let the oppressed go free to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”. This is one of the shortest sermons.
It indicates that His presence will bring good news, freedom, liberation, healing, new sight and favour to the people.
Jesus is the Word incarnate, therefore whatever the word of God says comes to fulfilment in Him. Therefore, to have Jesus is to have salvation, freedom, sight, healing, blessings and favour.
3. The point is that the people of Israel have waited for centuries for the fulfilment of promises that God made throughout their history, beginning with the fall of Adam (Gen 3:15), Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), Isaiah 7:15 etc.
Now Jesus declares that the wait is over. The promises are now fulfilled, the long-awaited Messiah is here, the incarnate word of God that brings joy is with us. This is indeed good news.
These verses announce the nature of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus comes for the sake of our liberation. Therefore, whatever He tells us is for our good. He has come to liberate us from the captivity of the evil one. He comes to save us from the slavery of sin and thus gives us freedom again. Therefore, the word of God is salvific.
When we listen to His voice, let us not harden our hearts. Jesus means good and not bad. He does not come to overburden us. He comes to set us free. Understanding this will make us take God’s word very seriously, then read and meditate on it daily.
4. The preaching of Jesus today serves as his mission statement. It means that , it is what his mission is, and what he has come to achieve or fulfil. So, it is like his guiding beacon.
It is simply why he came; given further impetus by his comment at the end of the chapter, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to other cities also. For this reason I have been sent” (Luke 4:43).
Therefore, Jesus added that his advent was not for the Jews only but the gentiles. In essence, His reason for coming is to spread the message of God’s kingdom to every nation on earth.
This is further elucidated with the significance of his Galilean origin. It is worthy to note that Jesus did not grow up in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the centre of Jewish life and religious practice but Jesus did not grow up there. Jesus grew up in Galilee, the hinterlands, a place where many gentiles live. He also carried out the major portion of his ministry in Galilee.
Therefore, Jesus comes also to save us. He comes to save you. He comes to teach you the way of salvation. But we are so heart hardened.
We think that Christianity is misleading us, we abandon God and stop having time for Him. Yet things refuse to change. We think that by running away from God, things will be better, yet we plunge ourselves into misery.
Away from God is slavery, misery and damnation. Yet this is what man chooses. We have neglected God’s word to live the way we want instead of the way God wants. This is why we are not making it any headway.
Christianity preaches love, peace, progress, spiritual strength, holiness etc. Then imagine a world, imagine a family where peace reigns. Where everyone loves each other. Such a place will be heaven on earth. But we do not want that, and this is why we are suffering and complaining at the same time.
The word of God is salvific, yet we have abandoned God’s word and neglected Him. We think the world is ours, yet we will still die and leave the world. Let us come back to our creator and embrace Him again.
The Anointing Power of the Holy Spirit Through His Word
1. In his first premise today, Jesus emphasizes that his anointing and empowerment come from the Holy Spirit.
It is a reminder that everything about Jesus is through the Holy Spirit. Luke emphasizes that that the conception of Jesus Christ is through the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).
Also, Zechariah under the anointing power of the Holy Spirit prophesies of Jesus that God ‘has raised a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:69) which was also a certification of Jesus’ mission statement.
Luke also elucidates that the Holy Spirit rested on Simeon as he held the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God for allowing him to see God’s salvation (Luke 2:27-30) and that the Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22).
Jesus was anointed at his baptism where the Spirit descended upon him like a dove and the voice from heaven confirmed him as the beloved son of God (Luke 3:22), and today he deems it pertinent to remind us again that Jesus’ ministry is Spirit-empowered.
Therefore, the easiest avenue to be filled with the mighty presence of the Holy Spirit is to read His word and apply it. When we live by the word of God, we live under the guidance, power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We will be divinely inspired and full of wisdom. Therefore, the word of God is salvific because it is indispensable for our spiritual growth and existence.
2. Today, Jesus identifies himself as the anointed one of God. This is also a further epiphany of his messianic import and objectives by further declaring his mission, which is to proclaim the Good news of the reign of God, a God of Love and compassion for the poor, sinners and oppressed.
Jesus reads from the book of Isaiah 61, which proclaims that the messiah will bring relief to the disenfranchised.
This prophecy was made when the Israelites lived in slavery and misery in exile. So, by using these same words as the basis of his ministry and mission, Christ announced His reign of peace, justice, freedom and love to all those suffering from all kinds of oppression and injustice.
Like Nehemiah in our first reading, Christ proclaims the good news of the new era to all of us. Therefore, in our relationship with Him, everything that comes from Him is good. We know that all things God works for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28).
1. From today’s readings we have seen that the word of God is salvific. In Matthew 4:4 during the temptation of Jesus, Jesus tells the devil “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’
Therefore, like the Israelites in the first reading, we have to develop an intense desire for the word of God. Our centre of interest is not only on what we shall eat or drink. It is not on the latest car we would drive. We should also focus on God’s word.
In God’s word, we encounter the secrets of success, the secrets of life, grace, blessings and eternal life. Through the word of God, we can be filled with the anointing power of the Holy Spirit and be spiritually filled to do His work.
The word of God is the secret of inspiration, wisdom, peace, love, and progress. Everything is in the word of God.
2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness, Therefore, living by the word of God is also the secret of blessings and holiness of life.
Therefore, if we truly want to achieve eternal life, if we want to be free from the slavery of sin, if we want to be live holiness of life, if we want to be a saint, we have to take God’s word as our guide. The word of God is salvific.
2. In the first reading, while Ezra was reading the book of the law to the people, the bible says that Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.
Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord. And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense so that the people understood what was read.
We see how the people show a great sense of respect and homage to the word of God. They know that at that point it is no longer Ezra speaking to them, but God speaking to them through His servant Ezra.
In this way, when we hear the word of God, it is no longer the priest talking to us but God speaking through his servant. We are bound to show respect.
Also, in today’s gospel, while Jesus was speaking, the people were very attentive to Him. Therefore, when we hear the word of God, we owe God that honour, respect and love. We have to pay attention to the word as God speaks to us.
But today, we do not even have time to listen, rather many of us keep ourselves busy on social media even during the eucharistic celebration. We have to show God some sense of respect.
3. It is important to note that this good news is not directed only to the few, but to all. While Ezra was reading the book of the law, He faced the men, women and children who were gathered there. He read the book of the law to their hearing. Also, when Jesus read the book of the law, He read for all.
Therefore, the word of God that we hear is for all. It is for me and you. So, it is not for a particular type of person. It is not for that family you think is evil and you are righteous.
The word of God is not only that your friend you think is not measuring up or not living up to standards. The word of God also concerns you.
Therefore, when we hear the word of God, let us first assimilate it as what God is telling us. Let us not feel or think that it is for a particular kind of person and does not concern you at all. It concerns all of us.
4. It is also good to note here that nothing surpasses peace and unity. Progress comes when people work together.
The increasing rate of differences and dissensions among us are destroying the body of Christ. This is the reason many people think that the word of God is for their enemies. We need to come together as one.
In the second reading, Paul says that though there are many parts but still make one body, is the way we are many but one body in Christ”
God puts all the separate parts into the body on purpose. If all the parts were the same, how could it be a body? As it is, the parts are many but the body is one. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you, nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’ and vice versa.
Therefore, let us not underrate the other person. Let us not think that the other person is not important. Just as the body has different parts, we have different gifts and talents. And just as they make one body, let us also work together for the body of Christ. Unity is progress.
Wickedness, jealousy, hatred, envy, backbiting etc can never bring us anything good. Like our body, when we are hurting another person or fighting another person, we are also doing ourselves. Paul says in the second reading “ If one part of the body is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. If one part is given special honour, all parts enjoy it. We have to understand this.
5. The gospel reading today is like Jesus’ opening statement. This mission statement holds promise not only for the poor but also for all Jewish people.
At that time, Roman soldiers are garrisoned in their land to ensure that Roman law is honoured and Roman taxes are collected. The Jewish people are not in a position to chart their course or to determine their destiny. Concerning political power, the nation is poor, captive, and oppressed. They desperately need the salvation that Jesus brings.
The good news promises to liberate them from this slavery. But when Jesus talks about the poor in spirit, it does not mean those who are materially poor. It means that just as the jews desire and expect the messiah to bring them liberation, the poor spirits are those who have true hunger and desire for God.
They are those who know they have a lack that can only be filled by the mighty presence of God. So they constantly seek God all the days of their lives. Therefore, Just as the bible says that those who seek me shall find me, Jesus has come to satisfy their hunger and quest for salvation.
5. In essence, the word of God also liberates us from Slavery; Slavery that results from personal sins and mistakes in life, which makes us, spiritually blind and weak.
This cripples our spiritual life and hardens our hearts against God and all that is good. This affects us both spiritually and physically. Only Christ can liberate us from this slavery. We can achieve this liberation by accepting the good news, and by seeking reconciliation with Christ and ourselves.
6. It is also the Church’s mission to speak for the poor. In the gospel, we can see that Luke addresses the gospel to Theophilus. Theophilus means the lovers of God (Theophilus)
Therefore, first of all, this expresses the mission of the Church who are the lovers and members of the body of Christ.
We have the mission of bringing good news, proclaiming freedom and liberation from sin and death, restoration, and freeing the oppressed. The church is not only the leaders but also the members. This message is for all of us today who are lovers of God and the gospel. We have to be a solace to the poor, the suffering and the downtrodden.
Jesus says that He brings good news to the poor. Good News is a message that brings joy. It is the liberty to the captives and freedom from all that binds us including sin. It is healing to the sick, the experience of wholeness. The good news is the promise of a favourable year. It is the time of Grace.
So, Good News is not a set of information. It is the possibility to experience God in the person of Jesus.
The Good News is salvific. Now is the time to embrace the Good News, So, to embrace Jesus, the Word made flesh is to embrace the Good News. Are You ready?
May God give us the grace to abide by His word.
Peace be with you