To Be People of Faith

01-23-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We learn in the history of the Jews that after the time of the Babylonian Exile, Nehemiah and Ezra were the two major forces or "re-constructionists" in the land of Israel. Nehemiah was the governor and the political leader of the people and Ezra, a descendant of Aaron, was the priest who was responsible for the restoration of the people's religious life. In our first reading it makes sense that we read the passage where we see and hear Ezra gathering the nation to hear the holy Law and to renew the Sinai covenant.

In this public ceremony the returned exiles hear more than just a story of their return to Israel; instead they hear a deeply felt creedal expression of faith and also despite all the horror of what has happened to them in their Exile a vibrant call to live their lives as faithful Jews.

As a side and additional thought, our second reading continues from last week's Letter to the Corinthians. The listeners are reminded that they are favored with many good gifts in life which are not only for them but also the good of all the community. Paul uses the image of the body to stress how not only all parts of the body work together, but all members of the community should also. Paul tells us, those who listen to his writings that in fact they are "the body of Christ."

Our Gospel passage which is compiled from the very beginning of Luke and from a later section found in chapter 4. Luke's beginning, that is his Prologue, is written to announce the preaching of the Good News and also link the Old and now New Covenant. This second part of our reading has Jesus in his own home town announcing that He is the very fulfillment of the Old Covenant. This statement links the Old and New Covenants together and actually begins a new period of time

From the time of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan when He began His ministry among us, he offered an example and model of how to live out the Good News. Note that from the scriptures, Jesus from the very beginning of His ministry made it obvious to all that His work was to bring good news and comfort to the poor, proclaim liberty to all who were captives, give sight to those who were blind, liberate all who were oppressed, and bestow God's favor upon all people.

Jesus perceived that the human heart possessed the desire ultimately to live a life of love forever with God. He not only recognized this great truth, but also showed us how to realize and live the life necessary to obtain it. Clearly His message is about living the Good News and also seeking to have all our hopes, dreams and desires fulfilled in living out His message of kindness, peace and love.

Religious people can lose their way when their inner spirituality is replaced with simply following rules and judgements. Certainly to follow Jesus we must follow the Ways of Goodness, Truth, Justice and Charity, but we cannot allow ourselves to forget that religious rules are not faith; faith is greater and deeper for it is about God and ourselves. We are called not to be people of religion, but to be people of faith.