January 24, 2016 – 3rd Sunday “C”

Ne 8, 1...10 ; 1 Co 12, 12-30 ; Lk 1,1-4 ; 4, 14-21

Illah Monastery, Delta State, Nigeria





          When Jesus was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, he chose the passage where it was written :The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring the good tidings to the poor... and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Jesus nevertheless omits one member of that prophecy in which the prophet said that the Lord has sent him to proclaim also “ the day of vengeance of our God.”


          So, Jesus deliberately suppressed from the text of the Prophet Isaiah that he quoted the mention of the divine vengeance that his auditors in the Synagogue certainly expected. We should remember this, every time when, in our relationships with others, between religions or between people, we pretend having the right to exercise God’s vengeance.  That pretention is the root of all the forms of religious fanaticism.


          We are at the end of the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians; and we know that such a unity will never be achieved without a profound respect for the great variety that exists – and that always existed in the Christian family. In that context, it is good to hear again saint Paul’s reflections, in his Letter to the Corinthians, on the great diversity within the Church, that he compares to a body.


          The first reading, taken from the book of Nehemiah is also interesting in that respect.  The people of Israel had forgotten the Law of the Lord. Then the scroll of the Law was rediscovered and was solemnly proclaimed by the priest Esdras, at the time of the prophet Nehemiah.  For us also, it is good, from time to time, to read our Christian History again, starting with its very beginning.  This is the reason why, at the beginning of the “ordinary” time of the liturgical year, in this third Sunday, we begin the reading of the Gospel of Luke, starting with its first verses.


          The day after tomorrow, we will celebrate the solemnity of the holy Founders of Cîteaux. It might be a good thing also, in our personal lectio, to read once more the primitive documents of our Order, that remind us of the beginnings of our Charism, starting with the simple and solemn first words of the Little Exordium : “We, first Cistercian monks, founders of this community....” They, too, had to affirm their right to be different.


          When Jesus speaks of his disciples, he uses various images, like that of the vineyard or that of the sheepfold.  Saint Paul speaks of the Church as of a construction, or, more often, as of a body, as he does in the text that we had as a second reading. It is a body where the members, that are very different from one another, have each one a specific role to play.     


In this Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians, let us ask the Lord to give us pure and humble eyes that will allow us to see, in the great diversity of the Christian people, a diversity of missions.  Let us see a beauty in that diversity.  Let us remember some of the most beautiful words of Father Christian de Chergé’s Testament, when he speaks of God taking pleasure in re-establishing the primordial unity, “playing” with our differences.