Third Sunday of Year C ‘The Joy of the Lord is my Strength’

Every person is a precious mystery. An individual cannot be weighed by public opinion; he cannot be measured by his conditionings; he belongs to no-one but himself, and no creature in all the world can penetrate his mystery except the God who made him. The dignity of every person is beyond our reckoning.

Fulton J. Sheen Lift Up Your Heart

January is a time for many things: finding love, losing it, taking up a regime of exercise, of dieting, for turning away from the excess of Christmas, reacting against the short days, the wet and the cold. So at one level, when we hear in this morning’s Old Testament reading ‘Eat the fat and drink the sweet wine’ we could be quite concerned. But we are also told to ‘send portions to anyone who has nothing ready’ – to feast then in the Kingdom of God involves everyone eating. In a world where we produce more than enough food for all to eat and not go hungry, it is good that there is a campaign to put an end to Global Hunger, as this is what the Kingdom of God looks like in action, faith is not some private matter, but affects who and what we are, what we do, how we live our lives.

In St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians we see what it means to be the Church, the Body of Christ, through our common baptism. We may be different, but we all need one another, unity does not mean uniformity, after all. We are dependent on one another, in the church which is a place of unity in, through and with Christ. Looking back on this two thousand years later we can see the wounds which mar the Body of Christ  in our sin and division and also how they can be healed: in Christ, through Christ, through His saving death upon the Cross.

In the Gospels recently we have seen Our Lord baptised to sanctify the waters of baptism for the salvation of the human race, and as an act of loving obedience to the Father to show the world how to turn away from sin and how to be reconciled with God; we have seen the Kingdom of God come among us in the Wedding at Cana. It is a place of joy, which we cannot understand, just like the steward in the wedding feast  – the best wine has been kept for now, the new wine of the Kingdom, better than we have ever tasted, beyond our expectations and our efforts. We have seen in Our Lady’s word to the servants, ‘Do whatever He tells you’ that obedience is the key to new life in Christ, that same obedience which His mother recommends and shows, which Jesus Christ shows us, so that we might follow His example.

In this morning’s Gospel we Jesus back on home turf ‘full of the power of the Spirit’ teaching people, showing them the way, and being glorified by them – as they give to God what is due. When he comes to his home town and is given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, he proclaims ‘good news to the poor’ ‘liberty to captives’ ‘new sight to the blind’ ‘freedom for the oppressed’ and ‘the year of the Lord’s favour’. He, the Word made Flesh is the fulfilment of the Word, of prophesy.

As He will say in the Sermon on the Mount ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God’. The good news of the Gospel is for those who know their need of God, their spiritual poverty. Those who are slaves to sin can find true freedom in Christ; it allows us to see the world with new eyes, where everyone is our brother and sister, where we can be one in Christ.

‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ we, here, today, have heard this among us, we have come to be fed with Word and Sacrament, to be fed by Christ, with Christ, to have new life in Him, and to share that new life with others, a new life and a freedom which the world cannot give. So let us be fed to have new life in him, to live that life and share it with others, for the joy of the Lord is our strength. It is our vocation as Christians to be filled with that joy and to share it with others

As Christians we are to live lives of joy and love in Christ, and through him, rejoicing in our new life in baptism, in the saving sacrifice of the Cross, in the hope of the Empty Tomb, in our unity in the Body of Christ, so that all creation may resound with the praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.

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