Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the special occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, on which we recall the importance of the Word of God in our lives, the central role of the Sacred Scriptures in our life as Christians, which cannot be separated from our daily life. The Word of God is central as part of our Christian way of life and we have to put it as the centre and focus of our whole existence. That is the great importance and significance of the Word for us.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis instituted this Sunday of the Word of God just recently a few years ago to remind us of this importance, so that as Christians we do not end up sidelining the centrality of the Scriptures. We cannot be true Christians unless we have appreciated and understood the Scriptures, spent the time to read them and to put them into our hearts and minds. Each and every Christian families, all of us must put our effort to read and study the Scriptures together. We must always strive to help one another to understand the Scripture better.

However, too many of us sidelined the Scriptures, not spending the time to even read the Bible at all. Many of us always find excuses trying to justify why we couldn’t do so. We were either too busy with our work and career, or with whatever it was that fancied our thoughts and minds, not being able to focus ourselves on the Lord and His words. And we also find excuses saying that reading the Bible is boring and not interesting at all, because we prefer to read other things that excite us more.

That is what happened when we do not have the genuine faith and desire to love God. We put other things instead of God as the focus of our lives then easily we will end up forgetting about Him and His truth, and His words have no place inside of us. It is time for us to reflect on this before it is too late for us and since each and every one of us are called today this Sunday to reflect on the importance of this Word of God, we should make the effort to read the Scriptures more, spending the time to deepen our understanding of God’s words and truth, and also how He has done so much throughout our history of salvation.

Let us now also look through our Scripture readings today, as we first recall the words of the prophet Ezra to the people of Israel in the Book of Nehemiah. At that time, the people of Israel had just returned from their exile in the land of the Babylonians, as they were allowed to return to their homeland by King Cyrus the Great of the Persians. The Lord had touched the king’s heart to allow His people to return to their homeland. Therefore, they took the journey to return to their homeland, and they went back to the ruins of Jerusalem and their cities to begin rebuilding their homeland in earnest.

The priest and prophet Ezra led the people in the reading of the Law of God, the Law, commandments and the rules which God had laid down to His people through Moses. Those Law and commandments had long been neglected, and through the years of the kingdom of Israel and Judah they had often been ignored and disregarded. The Lord’s people had abandoned Him and persecuted His prophets and messengers, and as a result, they had to suffer the consequences of their infidelity, to be humiliated among the nations.

But God still had mercy and compassion and them, and He still loved them no matter what. That was why He sent Ezra to the people, and assisted by Nehemiah, the servant and scribe of the Persian King, to remind the people to know the Law and the commandments. For all those time when their ancestors had neglected the Law, it was even possible that they did not bother to get to know the Law and the truth of God more. They did not make the effort to know the Lord more even though the Law and the words of the Lord had always been available to them. To all of us, we have also received these same Law and commandments in the Scriptures. The same Law that Ezra spoke of that day, is the same one that is contained in our Sacred Scriptures.

Today, all of us also heard in our Gospel passage today, the words of the Lord Jesus as He proclaimed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue of His own hometown. The people there were astonished when they heard how He spoke with such great Wisdom and authority, as He revealed the truth of God to all, how everything that the prophets had spoken would be fulfilled through Him. He was the One Whom the prophets had revealed, and all these were written in the Scriptures. But, the people often refused to believe in Him as they could not accept how He could be the Messiah of God.

And ironically it was the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were often up against Him and His works, doubting Him and trying hard to undermine His credibility at every possible opportunities. Those were the ones who supposedly should have known the best about the Scriptures and the Law, and they should have been the first to recognise the Saviour of God when He came into this world. Yet, they were the ones who rejected Him and made His works difficult as they refused to believe that He was truly the One promised by God.

That was despite the fact that they had seen all that the Lord had performed before them, in healing the sick people and opening the eyes of the blind, releasing the tongues of the mute and opening the ears of the deaf, and in casting out demons among many other miracles He had performed, all of which were the words of the Scriptures, the prophets and messengers of God all coming to perfect fulfilment in Him. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they were too proud to admit that there could be One Who could be superior to them.

They might have known the letter of the Law and the contents of the Word of God, but they did not truly appreciate and understand its meaning and significance, and as a result that was why they ended up doing all sorts of things that were unbecoming of them as the guardians of the faith of the people. This is in fact a reminder for us that we ourselves can also fall to the same pitfall unless we are careful not to lose our vigilance and guard against our pride and ego, and all the worldly temptations and desires.

Then lastly in our second reading today, we heard how St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle and letter to the Church and the faithful in Corinth that the Church of God is truly the one united and indivisible Body of Christ formed from the unity of all the faithful people of God. That Church was founded by the Lord Himself, established in this world with Himself as its Foundation and Focus. The Church of God was founded upon this very Word of God made Flesh, the Divine Word Incarnate. The Church is founded on the base of the Sacred Scriptures, the Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Therefore, as we also celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this week, we have to spend some time to reflect on what we can do to foster unity within the Church. But we cannot do this if we ourselves are weak and ignorant of the truth of God as contained within His Word in the Sacred Scriptures. We have to deepen our relationship with God first and our understanding of His words and His truth as contained within the Scriptures, if we are to seek true unity in the Church among all Christians everywhere. We are all called and challenged to seek the Word of God in every available opportunity and share it with others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore make good use of this opportunity on the Sunday of the Word of God to renew our commitment to place the Word at the centre of our Christian lives and amidst our respective families. We are all called to be the bearers of the Word of God and be His witnesses in our respective communities and in the various places we are living in. Are we able to live virtuously and in obedience of the Lord’s commandments and Law as He has entrusted them to us?

These are the things that we have to consider as we reflect and discern on our path forward in life. Are we going to continue down the same path towards ruin as what those Israelites and the ones who had ignored the Word of God and His truth had done? Or shall we instead do our very best to live our lives in accordance with the Word of truth, and strive to be exemplary each day and every moments in life to be most committed in all things? Let us all strive towards true Christian Unity by solidifying our foundation of faith through the frequent study and appreciation of the Scriptures, the Word of God.

Let us all make good use of these opportunities that God has given to us, to be His most dedicated followers and disciples, now and always, that more and more may come to believe in God and His salvation. May God bless us all and our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

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