To Be a Follower of Jesus

01-27-2019Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

From our Bible History classes in Religious Education (CCD or Catholic School), we may remember that Nehemiah and Ezra were the two major rebuilders of the Israelite people after the Babylonian exile. Nehemiah was then governor, the political leader. Ezra, a priest and descendent of Aaron, was the agent responsible for the restoration of the people’s religious life. We learn in our first reading this weekend that Ezra has gathered the nation to hear the holy Law and to renew the Sinai covenant.

We soon realize in listening to this passage that this reading from the Torah which the returned people hear is far more than a simple recitation and narration. They are hearing again a reaffirmation of their summons to be God’s people and a call to live out their chosen dignity.

Our second reading this weekend continues the long discourse begun in last week’s second reading. Paul is writing to the Corinthian people to remind them that God has favored them with many gifts, but he emphatically notes that these gifts are intended not just for the good of the individual recipients but for the good of the community. Paul uses the analogy of the human body and he emphasizes how all the parts must cooperate with one another because all parts— meaning all people—are baptized in the one Spirit. Paul continues further to make this metaphor a reality in proclaiming the good news that his readers are, in fact, “the body of Christ.”

Our Gospel reading is composed of a section from the prologue of Luke and a section of his Chapter 4. In the prologue, the evangelist exposes his purpose in writing his Gospel, he wants to verify the preaching of the good news and also to establish continuity between the Old and New Covenants. Our selection from Chapter 4 tells us about Jesus in the synagogue of his hometown announcing that he is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. The bold statement of Jesus develops clearly a link with the past and inaugurates a whole new age of great good news.

At the start of his public ministry, Jesus develops and illustrates a model for living a life which exemplifies the good news. From this initial point, Jesus made it very clear that the work of his life 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. How often we get confused if this is his or our life work—or we simply forget what it is really supposed to be.

From the very beginning, Jesus recognized that the greatest desire of the human heart should be to possess a life of love forever with God. Jesus not only had recognized and acknowledged that desire, but he also had shown us how to realize it in his life and ministry. Indeed, his gospel would have been anything but good news. Jesus did, however, show us how to realize it: by bringing comfort to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to blind eyes, freedom to the oppressed, and an invitation to all to the favor of God’s reign. The very life of Jesus was a model of the good news. Know that when we strive to live a life of good news, then, not only do we possess God, our greatest desire, but we also allow God to possess the hopes, dreams, and desires of all those we touch.

If our heart’s desire is to be a follower of Jesus, then our daily life will be like his. We will have the same intent, relationship, and decision—all those most important things. Our daily life will show in its actions that we cherish God in our lives.

Father Brian