Browsing Homilies

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Word of God Sunday)

Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 | Ps 19 | 1 Cor 12:12-30 (or) 1 Cor 12:12-14, 27 | Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

We all have the experience of anticipating something for a long time. Anyone around a kid prior to a birthday or holiday, knows the importance of counting down the months, days, and at times, even the minutes. Students applying for college often talk about the months waiting to hear about their acceptance to a certain school as they anxiously await the e-mail in their inbox or letter in the mail. And even though the wait is excruciating, kids know Christmas will come and college-bound seniors know their acceptance or rejection will eventually arrive.

The waiting for something with an anticipated date feels different from the waiting for things without a clear indication of when or if they will ever happen. I’d argue that this type of waiting is harder because it requires much more patience and faith. (Ask any Chicago Cubs baseball fan prior to 2016, and they can describe this type of waiting well). People who want to be married, but have yet to meet the one, often talk about just wanting to know if and when it will happen. Couples who carry the incredibly heavy burden of infertility know the difficulty of waiting and hoping.

In today’s gospel, we hear the fulfillment of something the Jewish people had anticipated for centuries. Jesus stands before them and shared the words of the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

I am sure those seated in the synagogue (whose ruins are featured on the cover of the bulletin) had heard these words hundreds of times before. But Jesus didn’t stop there. He continued and said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” I can imagine people’s ears perked up, almost in disbelief at what they had just heard. Anyone napping or dozing off during the proclamation had to have suddenly woken up! Hope had sprung. His words shocked the room back to life.

Sometimes when we wait for something for so long, we find ourselves unprepared for the moment when it finally happens. The Messiah was there! Their wait was over! This must have been a huge relief to those who had anticipated this day for so long, right?

In the words of Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, “God can get tiny if we’re not careful.” The people in the room had spent their entire lives dreaming of how they thought the Messiah should look and act. When Jesus was in their presence, they chose not to see him for who he was. They would’ve rather kept waiting for the Messiah that they had in mind. They would rather give into their doubt than to imagine that God had a different plan from what they expected.

The words of the prophet suddenly didn’t sound as appealing if they were coming from Jesus who wasn’t concerned about earthly power or prestige. He cared about living in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed and reaching out to the ostracized and the lonely.

Much like those in the synagogue, it’s easy for us to anticipate having our own desires fulfilled. We want the waiting to yield the results for which we hope, but the challenge for each of us is to let God surprise us at times with a new vision and refreshed understanding.

Waiting for fulfillment takes patience and faith, but recognizing fulfillment takes adaptation and resignation to God’s will, and not ours.

You and I can find holiness in both, as long as we open our hearts to it.


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