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Word of God Sunday 3A Isaiah 8:23—9:3 /1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17 / Matthew 4:12-23

In Luke’s Gospel,
right before Jesus ascends into heaven—
He gives his disciples their
last set of instructions.

So, it’s an important part of Scripture.

Of course they were frightened
when they first saw the Risen Lord—

especially since most of them had
fled during the crucifixion.

And Jesus says,
“Peace be with you.”

That was an important first move—
They needed to hear that!!!

“Peace be with you.”

And then Jesus showed them the
wounds in his hands and feet.

It was really Him.

And then they ate together.

And then—
then—
He gives them instructions—

If you want to understand me—
if you want to understand who I am. . . .

If you want to understand why I did the things I did—

If you want to understand why I said the things I said—

It’s all written in Scriptures.

It’s written in in the books of the Law—

It’s written in what the prophets prophesized—

It’s written in what’s sung in the palms!!!

Have you ever noticed how
much Jesus quotes Scripture?!?!?!?

Look in the Scriptures

And then—
Jesus: “Opened their minds to
understand the Scriptures.”

Jesus “opened their mind to
understand the Scriptures.”

If you want to understand me—
If you want to know who I am—

Jesus says—
Jesus says,
Look in the Scriptures!!!

And let me also say this about the Scriptures:

It is hard for any really informed
person to deny—

that at least in our Western Culture—

The best—
the very best of our moral principles—
comes from the Bible.

The infinite dignity of every human being—
Every human being. . . .

That’s a Biblical concept.

And that dignity is inherent—
It’s intrinsic—
It can’t be taken away by any external entity.

It comes from the Scriptures.

We are created in the image and likeness of God.

Jesus died for—
Jesus bled for every single human being—
Every human being.

And with the Jesus ascension—
Human nature sits at the right hand of God.

The infinite dignity of humanity.

That comes from the Scriptures.

And what about love and compassion for all. . .
to love even one’s enemies.

That comes from the Bible.

And what about non-violence—

what about turning the other cheek. . . .

that comes from the Bible

And what about forgiveness—
radical forgiveness—
Forgiving those who harm us.

Jesus from the Cross says:
“Father forgive them,
they know what they do”

Forgiving even those who are out to kill us.

These moral principles are extraordinary—
They are powerful—
And they are distinctive!!!

We may not practice them all the time—
But when we see them—
We know they’re right.

We know deep down—
that the way we ought to live and behave.

And what about society’s
concern for the marginalized?

Where did that come from—
that comes from the Biblical too.

Earlier cultures and many
later cultures do just the opposite.

And what about the care of creation—
God’s creation.

That we are to be responsible stewards—
It’s not ours—
responsible stewards what God has created.

That’s in the Bible too.

So welcome to Word of God Sunday.

Pope Francis has declared that the
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time will
from now on be Word of God Sunday.

The Pope writes:
Devoting a specific Sunday of
the liturgical year to the word of God
can enable the Church to experience anew
how the risen Lord opens up for us
the treasury of his word and
enables us to proclaim its
unfathomable riches before the world.

He’s right isn’t he?!?!?

It’s unfathomable riches!!!

Without the Scriptures we cannot
understand Jesus.

And the Scriptures contain the
very best of our moral principles.
It teaches us how to live

I had a sociology professor in
college who used to do a
demonstration when he was
teaching about the power of symbols.

He would hold up a paperback novel
and ask if someone in the class
would tear a page out of the novel.

Many hands would go up—
Many pages were torn from the novel.

Then the professor would hold up a textbook
and ask if some someone in the class
would tear a page out of a textbook.

Only a few hands would go up.

And then he would hold up a Bible
and ask if someone in the class
would tear a page out of the Bible.

No hands—
No hands would go up.

That’s at least the way it was
when he first started teaching.

For the last ten years or so of his career—
that’s not been the case at all.

Now more students want to tear
a page out of the Bible than
there are who would refuse.

It seems so paradoxical doesn’t it. . . .
and ungrateful. . . .

That many of the rights that
everyone enjoys. . .

because of our human dignity. . . .

and many our most cherished
cultural moral concepts come the Bible.

If you read staunch atheists—
Like Richard Dawkins,
their disdain for the Bible primarily stems
from the violence that God supposedly
not only condones—
but also encourages in the Old Testament.

When the Israelites are depicted
conquering the Promised Land
we read passages like this from Deuteronomy (20:10-18):

“…you shall not leave alive anything that breathes.

But you shall utterly destroy them,
the Hittite and the Amorite,
the Canaanite and the Perizzite,
the Hivite and the Jebusite,

as the Lord your God has commanded you…”

That is kind of scary isn’t it?!?!?!

You see, biblical detractors read this literally—
Superficially—
Like fundamentalists.

They don’t reading it—
like we Catholics do—
in it’s correct context.

First of all,
archeology shows that there was more
assimilation than conquest as the Israelites
moved into the Promised Land.

And second of all,
the authors of these texts
were writing about events that
occurred centuries earlier. . .

And they were using the most common
literary style—
stories of war and conquest
to show that God was on their side.

Context is essential!!

And most importantly,
critics who interpret the
Bible out of context miss this essential point

Within the Bible itself,
we see a gradual understanding of
God’s revelation to humanity.

St. Irenaeus saw this in the second century.

There is an evolution of
humanity’s understanding of God and God’s ways. . . .

with the ultimate revelation of God being in Christ Jesus.
“Who ever has seen me has seen the Father”

And one last note on this.

Stories of violence and killing in the Bible—
our great spiritual masters from the very beginning
have read them allegorically—
as our own struggle against evil.

So yes,
“…you shall not leave alive anything that breathes.

you shall utterly destroy them. . .

Destroy the anger and the lust,
Destroy the hatred and the violence,
Destroy the resentments and the oppression,
That lies within us. . . .
as the Lord your God has commanded you…”

That’s how we Catholics are to read these texts.

So let’s celebrate this Word of God Sunday—

Let us proclaim its unfathomable riches
before the world.

Because it is there that we understand who this Jesus—
The one who saves us.

And it is there where we find the very
best of our moral principles—
and learn how to truly live.

Let us immerse ourselves in the Word of God.

Holy Spirit 01/25-26/2020