Christ is the living and incarnate Word of God – The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus the living and Incarnate Word of God reading the written Word of God in the synagogue (still photo from the 1977 film “Jesus of Nazareth”)

Central idea: Christ is the living and incarnate Word of God. Doctrine: God inspires both the human authors of the written Word of God and its readers. Practical application: Reading the written Word of God.

To view Lectionary 69, click here.

Central idea: Christ is the living and incarnate Word of God

Reading 1 Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10

Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly,
which consisted of men, women,
and those children old enough to understand.
Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate,
he read out of the book from daybreak till midday,
in the presence of the men, the women,
and those children old enough to understand;
and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform
that had been made for the occasion.
He opened the scroll
so that all the people might see it
— for he was standing higher up than any of the people —;
and, as he opened it, all the people rose.
Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God,
and all the people, their hands raised high, answered,
“Amen, amen!”
Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD,
their faces to the ground.
Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.
Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe
and the Levites who were instructing the people
said to all the people:
“Today is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep”—
for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.
He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks,
and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared;
for today is holy to our LORD.
Do not be saddened this day,
for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”

  • Judaism can be said to be a religion of the Book, that is, the Old Testament, because it is their law, their history, their poetry, their wisdom, and their prophesy.
  • The Mosaic Law as found in the Pentateuch was the guide for how Jews were to live.
  • They could understandably be emotional: this all-day reading must have made them realize all that they had lost, all that they failed to do, and their own infidelity.
  • But Nehemiah and Ezra told the people not to be penitent but to feast and to provide a feast for those who could not procure “rich food and sweet drinks.”
  • Even though our lives involve suffering (this world is a vale of tears), and we may be punished for our sins (the natural consequences of doing wrong), and need to do penance (which we undertake), true religion is really God’s desire to make us supremely happy through his friendship and his gifts.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15

R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.

The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.

Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

  • The words of the Sacred Scriptures are true, instructive, and give joy.
  • Even more, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, is perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, enlightening, right, joy-imparting, clear, pure, enduring, true, and just.

Reading 2 1 Cor 12:12-30

Brothers and sisters:
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Now the body is not a single part, but many.
If a foot should say,
“Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,”
it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
Or if an ear should say,
“Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,”
it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?
If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
But as it is, God placed the parts,
each one of them, in the body as he intended.
If they were all one part, where would the body be?
But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,”
nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.”
Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker
are all the more necessary,
and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable
we surround with greater honor,
and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,
whereas our more presentable parts do not need this.
But God has so constructed the body
as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,
so that there may be no division in the body,
but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it;
if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.
Some people God has designated in the church
to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers;
then, mighty deeds;
then gifts of healing, assistance, administration,
and varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

  • Paul teaches the doctrine that the Church is the Body of Christ, who is its head. Every part of the body is vital. Each part has something to contribute.
  • The most obvious question one can ask himself is, what gift am I in this Body of Christ? Whether it seems humble or important, whatever God gives us to be and to do is the best thing for us.

Gospel Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events
that have been fulfilled among us,
just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning
and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,
I too have decided,
after investigating everything accurately anew,
to write it down in an orderly sequence for you,
most excellent Theophilus,
so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings
you have received.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,
and news of him spread throughout the whole region.
He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
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.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

  • In the prologue of his Gospel, Luke writes of “the events that have been fulfilled among us” and “the teachings you have received,” in other words, what Jesus did and taught.
  • Luke identifies the authentic sources of his narrative: “those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word,” that is, the apostles and disciples.
  • The content of his narrative is what we could call Sacred Tradition, the truth that these witnesses “have handed . . . down to us,” teachings we have received.
  • The second part of the gospel reading shows God’s mercy. When Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to his hometown, he attended the synagogue on the Sabbath as was his custom, stood up, was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, unrolled it, and read the passage about the merciful Spirit-led messiah. The messiah was to come for the benefit of the poor, captives, the blind, and the oppressed.
  • And then, in one of the most dramatic moments imaginable, he sat down to teach and said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, he declared that he was that man.

Doctrine: God inspires both the human authors of the written Word of God and its readers

  • In the prologue to his Gospel, St. Luke explains his motivation for writing, the authenticity of his sources, and how he organized his work. Dei Verbum, the Vatican II document on Divine Revelation, teaches that, “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more” (DV 11, quoted in CCC 106). In today’s Gospel reading we can see both the human and the divine side of the composition of the Scriptures.
  • The Gospels were written by men of faith who knew who Jesus was. They could “make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life.” “Everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of [the] mystery, that . . . ‘in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.’” (CCC 515)
  • This is why Jesus’ humanity was a sacrament, “that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission” (CCC 515).
  • Nevertheless, Christianity is not a religion of the book, like Judaism is: “Christianity is the religion of the ‘Word’ of God, a word which is ‘not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living.’ If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, ‘open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures.’” (CCC 108)
  • Thus, the Word of God is the person of Christ.
  • Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is alive in the living words of Scripture, something accomplished through the agency of divinely inspired human authors.
  • Through the same power of the Holy Spirit, we who read these writing can find Christ, the Word of God, in this word of God.

Practical application: Reading the written Word of God

  • Just as in the time of Ezra, everyone who is old enough to understand can and should read the Sacred Scriptures every day, giving pride of place to the four Gospels, since they most directly speak of Christ. As St. Jerome famously said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
  • We should read the Scriptures as books inspired by God that teach about God and how we should live our lives.
  • We should also ask for God’s grace to interpret what we read. God did not just inspire the human writers. He will also give us inspiration so we can understand it and apply it fruitfully.
  • If we attend Mass daily, we can follow the cycles of readings provided by the Lectionary. The use of a missal or other aid can make our listening more fruitful.
  • Five or ten minutes each day will make it possible to read the entire New Testament easily at least twice each year.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

The Homiletic Directory offers the following Catechism points and themes for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time:

  • CCC 714: Old Testament expectation of the Messiah and the Spirit
  • CCC 1965-1974: new Law and Gospel
  • CCC 106, 108, 515: God inspires human authors of Scripture, and readers
  • CCC 787-795: the Church as the Body of Christ






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