Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

In the first reading for this week Ezra presents the Law of God on a major feast day, perhaps the New Year, perhaps what later generations would call Yom Kippur[1]; Ezra continually tells the people not to be sad, but instead be full of joy[2]. The Law of God results in joy, not sadness[3].

In the Gospel, Jesus begins his public preaching in the equivalent of a synagogue in his own town. These two readings assert that the Law of God, The Word of God should be received in joy not in gloom. The Law of God is seen as liberating, not something that is restrictive.

Let us be honest now. This is not how most of us view commandments, Church teachings, etc. But if we really think about it, we can understand the joy and the freedom we have received when we have adhered to the principles of our faith life, our morality.

Many people in our times have demanded a freedom from all codes of moral conduct. How happy are these people? Can a person be a member of a family he or she loves and receive love from that family if that person flaunts the basic code for living in the family? A person cannot be happily married and at the same time unfaithful. A person cannot grow in love and be basically selfish. If a lack of rules brought happiness, then why do so many commit suicide?  If a code of morality is supposed to be somber and oppressive, then why are the happiest people in the world those whose lives revolve around a very strict following of the Lord? Some of the happiest people I have ever met are the Trappist monks. They have to get up in the middle of the night.  They have set hours for work and prayer. Their diets are restricted.  They take vows of silence. Yet, they are happy. They are people whose lives point people to the true source of happiness. The monks are happy. The Law of God has brought joy.

Think of the dark corridors of our society, the sleazy sections of the cities with their sex clubs and free life style. Think about the people who flaunt all codes of behavior. Are any of them happy? Are prostitutes happy? Only in the movies. Are their customers happy? No, they are depressed and depressing. Are those who party to the extreme and wake up wondering who they are happy? Or do some of them finally realize that their way of life destroys all meaning in life?

The law of the Lord brings joy. On Tuesday we considered the grim anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. The advocates of abortion love to portray the Catholic Church as being oppressive in its determination to protect life. To this I must tell you something that I am certain you would agree with: I have met many people who, no matter what their situations in life, have rejoiced in their unexpected babies. I have never met anyone who could look back on an abortion with joy...

So often we Catholics are portrayed as people struggling to live under oppressive laws. That’s not true. People who chose the way of the Lord are happy. That way demands that we take control of ourselves, and allow His Love to motivate our lives. The big lie of our society is that happiness can be found outside of the Lord. We know that what others pass off as happiness is merely a temporary band aid over a broken life.

Happiness, comes from God and leads us back to God. These reflections have led me, and perhaps also you, to a deeper understanding of a passage in Psalm 19:

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward ■

[1] Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יוֹם כִּפּוּר, IPA: [ˈjom kiˈpuʁ], or יום הכיפורים), also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im ("Days of Awe"). .
[2] Sunday 27th January, 2013, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10. Your words, Lord, are spirit and life - Ps 18(19):8-10, 15. 1 Corinthians 12:12-30. Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21 [Ss Timothy and Titus; St Angela Merici].
[3] Ezra reads from the Law of God. The occasion is some time after the Dedication of the rebuilt Temple, after the exile.  Let's just place it about 510 BC.
Ilustration: G. Rouault, Augures (1948), Aquatint, drypoint and etching (25 1/2 x 19 ¾),  Collection of the Haggerty Museum of Art.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris