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Catholic Sentinel | Portland, OR Sunday, April 23, 2017

Director of Divine Worship

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1/22/2016 3:04:00 PM
Proclaim a Year Acceptable to the Lord

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland


Third Sunday
in Ordinary Time
Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
 
Most people do not have a very favorable view of law. Perhaps that is because we think of it in a restrictive way. Today’s Scripture leads us to see the law found in the Torah and in the Gospel as good news.
 A number of years ago Father Bernard Haring, a priest well-known for his moral theology wrote a three volume work named, “The Law is Christ.” Now we have Pope Francis’ latest book, “The Name of God Is Mercy.” Both titles, it seems give us a new and broader notion of the meaning of God’s law. It is mercy and it is Christ. This is the Law that makes us complete.
The First Reading and the Gospel have similar contexts and in that context we hear the echo of the Jubilee Year.  The Book of Nehemiah, for instance, tells the story of the restoration of the Jews to the promised  land following the Babylonian exile. The Jews needed to hear the message of Ezra. They had just made a 900-mile journey and were generations away from what was once their home. Returning from Babylon, they faced the task of rebuilding not only what was physical but also their spirits and their faith.
 When Ezra spoke of the Law, he was speaking of the Torah—the framework for the Jews’ understanding of the relationship they had with God. He was calling the people to a renewal. Like Ezra, Christ’s ministry was also one of restoration. His task was to proclaim the same glad tidings to the poor, grant liberty to captives, give sight to the blind, and free the oppressed. This is true restoration from the ancient exile of both Jews and Gentiles in the land of sin and darkness. The Word of Christ brought a new meaning to the proclamation of renewal, a restoration rooted in him. God’s grace is unconditional and Jesus is sent, first of all to proclaim good news  to those who recognize their dependence upon God for everything. In other words, the poor can claim special treatment. This, by the way, is echoed in the statement of the bishops of the United States announcement of a “preferential option for the poor.”
 For many, it is more difficult to speak about the Gospel and the mercy that extends to the unseen poor and vulnerable — the unborn, the hungry, the impoverished, those without healthcare, the elderly, the isolated, the unborn. The cost of reaching out to them might mean the loss of popularity and an ideological separation. Nonetheless, the message is clear.  God’s mercy extends to all. Pope Francis reminds us that we are the instruments of that mercy.





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