The seed grows

‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen’. This is the climax of our three readings this Sunday. The opening one, from Nehemiah, speaks of the rediscovery of the Book of the Law after the exile when the Jews returned to rebuild the temple.

The people are moved to tears when they hear the words and realise how they had abandoned the way of the Lord. They want to start anew. The second reading, from Paul, describes how we all have different gifts and each of us is needed for the task. And gospel from Luke recounts Jesus coming to his hometown where he announces these words about ‘being fulfilled today.’

All the hopes and longings of people are about to be realised. There is a feeling of expectancy and Jesus says, ‘your desires are being fulfilled even as you listen.’ What were they to make of it? Certainly, they did not wake up next morning to a new world of justice and peace for all people. But they did wake up, if they knew it, to a new process that was now set in place. God had always been at work in his creation but now he was actually present, dwelling among his people in the flesh. He was one of them. And because of this, new things would start to happen. People would say, ‘we have never seen anything like this before’ (Mark 2:12).

A little example from daily life. I had a pork pie on the way to Zambia once, just beyond Karoi. It must have been well past its ‘best before’ date for I was very ill and could not attend the meeting in Siavonga. They took me to a clinic and fixed a drip and within minutes I felt better; a process was under way that changed everything. Jesus set in motion a process and people were drawn to him and they formed a community which grew in the cities around the Mediterranean and then spread over time to the whole world.

This process is still going on and Pope Francis often refers to it. Our lives are the living out of the process; we benefit from what others have done before us and we make our own contribution to those who follow us. The ‘fulfilment’ is happening all the time even if we don’t see it. It is like our immune system, constantly working in our bodies but we hardly know it and seldom pay attention to it. It is protecting us and freeing us to do the things we want to do. Mark again; ‘Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know’ (4:27).

This is what we mean by hope. It gives us the knowledge that we are moving towards a goal and we will certainly get there. People in the Middle Ages  translated this hope into pilgrimages, often to Jerusalem. They would set out, often on foot, for the holy city as an act of devotion which symbolised their life-journey.

23 January 2022         Sunday 3C      Neh 8:2…10              1 Cor 12:12-30           Lk 4:14-21

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