which was given at Mount Sinai to Moses and to God’s People.
And they fell to their faces, did you notice?
We might wonder? Why did they respond the way they did?
Then, in the Gospel, Jesus himself is reading from the Scriptures.
This time, from Isaiah, from a passage describing the Messiah
who will set free those imprisoned by sin and guilt.
And Jesus tells them: this passage is fulfilled in your hearing—
it is fulfilled…in Me!
While this reading ends without telling us how people responded,
that’s what interested me, about both these readings:
how people reacted, and why.
In fact, next Sunday’s Gospel will give us the people’s response.
There were three ways they responded.
Some said, in effect, oh, isn’t he nice?
Others said, he’s Joseph and Mary’s boy,
there’s nothing special about him.
And still others reacted by seeking to throw him off a cliff.
And of all those reactions, the one that makes the most sense?
Those who tried to throw him off the cliff!
To this day, these are still the responses people give to Jesus.
Lots of people today will say, oh, isn’t he nice?
But I’m not sure that if people spent a day with Jesus,
they would say that.
Yes, he was nice when he healed people –
but when he called the Pharisees a brood of vipers,
and he turned over the tables? That was not so nice.
And there are lots of people who, likewise,
claim that Jesus has nothing special to say.
We all know the sort: gruff people, who think everything’s a con,
it’s all bosh, and they aren’t going to be taken in!
But I can’t help thinking of something
the great English writer, C.S. Lewis, said:
the person who sees through everything, in fact sees nothing at all.
So those folks who went to throw him off the cliff?
That response made sense.
Because if you don’t believe he’s the Messiah,
then you realize, this fellow is trouble. Big trouble.
And someone who makes such big claims, but is false,
is also anything but a good man. In fact, he’s a very bad man.
But no matter what, you can’t just pass on by, nodding amiably.
Whatever or whoever Jesus is, he’s not the same old thing.
He’s Jehovah God, the One who separated the light from darkness,
who breathed life into dirt to create Adam,
the God of Abraham, Moses and Elijah,
the God of fire and judgment,
the one who divided the Red Sea and gave manna from heaven –
and he’s come down to earth,
and he’s standing right in front of you.
“Oh how nice!” is not a proper response!
One response we might have to Jesus is to want to know him better.
The people in the first reading were filled with sorrow
because they heard the words of the Covenant
God made with his people at Sinai,
and they realized they’d lost so much.
Ezra and Nehemiah were telling them, don’t despair, rise up,
and reclaim what is yours.
Many Catholics today are discouraged
because they don’t know their Faith as well as they might.
I’m here to say, one more time, rise up, claim what is yours.
We e have opportunities to learn our Faith –
let’s seize those opportunities.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas,
we had a lot of folks take advantage of the Symbolon program,
available online, and also the discussion groups.
It all seemed to work: it was free, it was accessible,
and a lot of people seemed to enjoy getting together with others
to share their faith.
So—we’re doing it again. Believe it or not,
Lent starts in about three weeks.
So we’re gearing up Symbolon, Part 2.
It’ll work the same way, but the materials we will look at
are about the Seven Sacraments.
Now, to be clear, if you didn’t join in part 1, don’t let that stop you.
Just jump in. If you don’t know how to sign up,
see the cover of the bulletin today, or look for a mailing.
It’s easy and it’s free.
Also, while we’ll focus on the next part of the Symbolon program, remember the website, Formed.org, has lots of options.
It’s all free, and it’s all for you.
Another way we might respond to Jesus
is to help him bring good news to the poor, and to set captives free.
This time of year, we talk about the Catholic Ministry Appeal,
which is the Archdiocese’s annual fund drive
to support six important missions of the local Church.
They are: our seminary and the vocations programs;
Catholic Charities and social services; campus,
hospital and prison ministries;
the fund for retired Archdiocesan priests;
St. Rita School for the Deaf;
and the Archdiocese’s programs for sharing the Catholic Faith.
There are envelopes in the pews,
and many of us will get mailings as well.
Our parish has always responded generously.
In fact, when we exceed the goal set,
the parish actually gets a bit of money back,
and that helps with our religious education programs.
These are all worthy causes.
Personally, I write my check each year for the seminary.
I give $500, which is a lot of money, but I don’t have any children,
so I can afford it. You do what you can afford.
Some can afford a lot more; others nothing close to that.
Do what you can.
Giving to help share Christ with others
is a very good response to Jesus coming close.
Like the people in the Scriptures, you and I have heard God’s Word.
In a few minutes, I’ll go to the altar, and once again,
Through me, Jesus will offer the Sacrifice
that makes him, the Messiah, the Deliverer,
present right here, on this altar.
All this is fulfilled in your hearing, and before our eyes.
How will we respond?