Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Kingdom of God has come to Earth,
the Poor, the Sick and the Destitute Rejoice
First Reading (Neh 7:2-6, 8-10) : Ezra the priest preached to the people
Second Reading (1 Cor12: 12-30) : Though many members, only one Body
Gospel (Lk 1:14: 14-21) : Jesus proclaims the Lord's goodness to all people
-“If I could only have ten thousand houses to house the homeless, to bless and protect the whole world, all the people would be happy.”(1)
“This poet has compassion on the sores and disfigurement of the people; his pen cries out for the ills and sufferings of mankind.”(2)
“Iron shoulders champion righteousness and justice. He writes about life and mankind until his hair grows white.”(3)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.(Lk4: 18-19)
These are Jesus' first public words as he began his public life. He spoke clearly about his identity, his mission and his work. His identity was that of the anointed of the Lord, a messenger sent by God. He came from the Father to carry out the Father’s plan and the will of the Father. Of course he himself is God.
His work is to let all the marginalized people that society ignores, all the poor, the suffering and the maimed, re-enter into the midst of society, into the circle of the kindly love and care of God and other people. According to the Father's plan, those who had been marginalized by others would be invited back again into a society full of love and mutual support.
But Jesus' more important mission was to establish the Kingdom of God, to nurture the environment of the kingdom, to build the kingdom's culture, to declare that God's ‘Year of Grace’ had come. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing!” (Lk 4:21)
Correct! It has been fulfilled! It has arrived! It has been realized! From the beginning of time until now, all the desires and dreams for a wholistic life, all the hopes for a time of universal harmony that the prophets and saints of old longed for, today are all fulfilled. The dreams have come true.
What here is called the ‘Year of Grace’ is the Jubilee Year, the Holy Year, the time the Lord has ordained, the time of God’s universal salvation.
According to the book of Leviticus the year after the seventh year of rest, that is every 50 years, was a Jubilee Year. (Chap 25: 9-10, 23-28, 39-43). During the Jubilee Year “You shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants.” ‘Jubilee’ originally meant a ‘horn’, its function being to awaken the people and tell them that a nationwide day of joy had come.
According to the laws of the Jubilee Year the innate rights that God had bestowed upon humankind – the right to own land, to have property, to have personal freedom,- are not to be transferred, sold or usurped. Every 50 years was to be a nationwide jubilee year and during that year all land and property that had been sold was to be restored to the owner and slaves who had lost their freedom were to regain it. Everyone would again enjoy the grace of the Lord.
Because land and peoples' lives all belong to the Lord, we humans can only use them, not usurp them as our own. No one has the right to take as one's own anything that originally belongs to God.
If we are not happy with laws that restrict our inter-personal relationships, in today's reading from the twelfth Chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians Paul tells us of the kind of relationship we should have with one another: “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:13)
How are we then to look upon the weak and less important members of this body? In the same Chapter Paul continues, “Truly, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior members, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (cf 1Cor 12:22-26)
We all belong to the same body; we all are members of Christ's Mystical Body. We are brothers and sisters of each other because we have only one Heavenly Father.
These teachings are for all people, they are the foundation of the kingdom of heaven. In this kingdom love is supreme. It is a love that enables us to look upon the weakest members with respect and sympathy.
Within love and an environment of love, for example within the warmth of a family, the poor, the sorrowing, the maimed, the sick, become particularly privileged, because they are especially cared for. Is it not true that in a family when someone becomes ill, perhaps cannot eat ordinary food, they are better cared for and exempt from regular household chores?
“If I could only have ten thousand houses to house the homeless, to bless and protect the whole world, all the people would be happy.”(1) This was the dream of the poet Du Fu. He yearned for a heaven on earth, a utopia. He was a considerate and warmhearted intellectual who worried about the country and the people. How posterity describes and evaluates Du Fu can be seen from the following couplets: “This poet has compassion on the sores and disfiguration of the people; his pen cries out for the ills and sufferings of mankind. (2) “Iron shoulders champion righteousness and justice. He writes about life and mankind until his hair grows white.”(3)
Heaven or utopia is not something we can obtain on our own just by wishing for it. There must be some who struggle continuously for it. Du Fu, bearing the conscience of an intellectual, wrote about this wholistic world in his works and continually used his poems and essays to appeal to the people. He seemed to have iron-cast shoulders to undertake to champion righteousness and justice. Throughout his life ‘until his hair turned white’ he strove to achieve this and spent his entire life to attain it.
The Kingdom of heaven and universal harmony depend on many people willing to cooperate together to build and achieve it. And two thousand years ago, it is this Kingdom of God that Jesus declared had already come.