Sinful Yet Loved Sunday of the Word of God 3rd Sunday Year C
Nehemiah 8:2-4A, 5-6, 8-10 Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Today, the Church Celebrates the Sunday of the Word of God, as requested by Pope Francis his 2019 Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis. On this day, Pope Francis declares, “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.” We will see how the readings for today are precisely on the importance of hearing the Word of God with repentance and with joy.
The first reading, situated in the 400 BCs, describes the priest Ezra reading Scripture to Jewish people who have returned to Jerusalem after having been exiled in Babylon. As John Bergsma comments, this public reading of Scripture “on a wooden pulpit” that the first reading identifies as “made for the purpose” is held by many to be the origin of the Liturgy of the Word that we are engaging in right now.
One noticeable difference between the first Liturgy of the Word before a congregation of people and our Liturgy of the Word is the time it took to hear the Word of God. We are used to hearing a few minutes of Sacred Scripture read to us in the context of the Mass. However, if we look closely at today’s reading from Nehemiah, the first Liturgy of the Word was hours long and lasted “from early morning until midday”.
Obviously, we likely will not increase the time of our Liturgy of the Word from a few minutes to a few hours. However, the responses of the Jewish people to this first Liturgy of the Word should also be how we respond to hearing God’s Word proclaimed during Mass.
The first response of the Jewish people upon hearing the Word of God proclaimed was they are sinners and, as encouraged by Ezra, that they are so loved by God that they are not to mourn but rather rejoice and even eat “fat and drink sweet wine”.
These two responses were recently emphasized by Bishop Cozzens who described an encounter with God, with Jesus as Lord, is first that I “am a sinner” and at the same time I “am deeply loved”.
At Mass, we are invited by God to experience these two responses, that we are sinners and we are deeply loved by God, that although we are sinful yet Jesus is inviting us to be united with us by the reception of His Body and Blood.
By way of anticipation of the two movements of Mass, the Liturgy of the Word when we hear God’s Word and are called to repentance, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, when we are united to Jesus by the reception of his presence hidden under the appearance of bread and wine, after the Jewish people heard God’s Word proclaimed to them by the priest Ezra they similarly became so aware of their sins that they wept and then Ezra commanded them to believe in God’s loving mercy by telling them not to grieve, but rejoice and eat “fat and drink sweet wine”.
The wine we drink is not merely sweet wine but is much more for we believe behind the appearance of wine is the Blood of the Risen Lord Jesus who loves us so much even though we are sinners that He wants to unite himself with his so that we individually and corporately, as a people, are united by his Body and Blood, knit together as a spiritual family whose Father is God the Father, whose mother is the Blessed Mother, and whose elder brother, is Jesus, Our Lord.
God Bless – Father Peter
Thắp Sáng Lên Light a Fire in My Heart (Kim Long)
Francis, “Apostolic Letter, Aperuit Illis, Instuting the Sunday of the Word of God,” 30 September 2019, https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190930_aperuit-illis.html, 3.
John Bergsma, The Word of the Lord: Reflections on the Sunday Mass Readings for Year C, 265-267.
Bishop Cozzens, The Cardinal Newman Society 01, 20, 2022 Meeting with College Presidents Conference.
 Francis, “Apostolic Letter, Aperuit Illis, Instuting the Sunday of the Word of God,” 30 September 2019, https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190930_aperuit-illis.html, 3.
 John Bergsma, The Word of the Lord: Reflections on the Sunday Mass Readings for Year C, 265-267.
 Bishop Cozzens, The Cardinal Newman Society 01, 20, 2022 Meeting with College Presidents Conference.