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LITURGY AND LIFE

By Gertrude Rompré

01/13/2016

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 24, 2016

 

Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

There’s a line in Richard Linklater’s film Before Sunrise where the character, Céline, proclaims her belief that, “if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me, but just in this little space in between.” Now, hers isn’t a fully Christian view — we believe in the Divine spark within each one of us — but it does point to something deeply important: the fact that God is intimately interested in connection. God cares about humans connecting with each other and God cares about connecting with us. This week’s readings abound with examples of God wanting to connect with humanity in a profound way. They also show us what happens if we choose to say “yes” to the call to enter into relationship with God, each other and the world in which we live.

The first reading brings us back to Jerusalem at a time when the people are rebuilding the city and returning from exile. They’ve had a hard time of it and are just beginning to see hope. Central to that hope is the Law that the priest Ezra brings forward to the assembly. It’s interesting to see how much attention is paid to this proclamation of the Law. We hear that a special platform was built for Ezra to stand on. We read that the people received the Law with great rejoicing and even wept when they heard the words of the Law. Once they heard the Law they celebrated with a great feast.

Why all the fuss? Because the Law in Hebrew Scripture isn’t just a list of rules to be followed, it’s a symbol of relationship, of a people’s deep bond with their God. The Law is an articulation of how God’s people are to live in response to their covenant relationship with God. The Law is like a wedding band, showing the people that they are wedded to a God who promises to be with them through thick and thin. That’s why the psalmist can sing that the “law of the Lord . . . revives the soul!” The Law reveals connection.

If the first reading speaks of the connection between God and God’s people, then the reading from Corinthians is the classic passage about human interconnectivity and how God makes that connection possible. In all of our diversity, we are one body. We are made into one body by our common union, or communion, with Christ. God is in the “space in between” each of us, as Céline reminds us. The Spirit within each of us connects us and becomes the Spirit between us. And because this is the case, we are able to celebrate our differences, the variety of gifts we bring to the whole Body of Christ.

During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we do well to reflect on the one Spirit that weaves us into one body. While we know that the divisions within the Body of Christ are still very real, we also know that the Spirit is alive and at work in each of our respective communions. What would it be like if we were to see each Christian family as members of the one body, just like St. Paul did in his letter to the Corinthians? Perhaps it would go something like this: “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the United Church would say, ‘Because I am not Mennonite, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the Catholic Church would say, ‘Because I am not a Baptist, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body!” May our shared prayer for unity deepen our commitment to each other as sisters and brothers in the one Body of Christ.

This week’s gospel, too, is about connection. The evangelist, Luke, plays with words by addressing his gospel to the most excellent Theophilus, the lover of God. From the very beginning, this gospel presumes relationship and that the reader is in love with God. This context of connection, then, colours the rest of the reading.

In some ways, the gospel is about loving relationship that cannot be contained. Entering into this covenant with God, allowing ourselves to be connected to the Body of Christ, triggers an overflow of God’s life into the world. That’s the good news that Jesus is talking about, that’s the reason Jesus can say he has been called to bring release to the captives and sight to the blind. Jesus knows that God’s love cannot be contained but that it spills over into all of creation and changes things!

May this week of prayer deepen our sense of connection with God and each other. May we celebrate the Spirit of God in between us that links the Spirit of God within each one of us, and then refuses to be contained. May all of our relationships proclaim the Good News of God’s abundant and overflowing love for us!

Rompré is the director of Mission and Ministry at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon.