Today’s First Reading describes an ancient “Liturgy of the Word.” As Ezra prepared to read from the scroll of the Law—the most sacred part of the Old Testament scriptures—he held it up for all to see and the people rose out of respect. As he blessed God they replied with an acclamation, “Amen, amen!” As Ezra read from God’s word, he also explained it. This parallels the proclamation of the gospel—the most sacred part of the New Testament scriptures—at Mass. The Book of Gospels is held up and carried in procession while the congregation stands out of respect. “Alleluia” is our acclamation along with “Glory to you, O Lord” and “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” Once God’s word is proclaimed, it is also explained.
Today we begin a more-or-less continuous reading of the Gospel according to Luke, the primary gospel for this year’s Sunday readings. Today’s Gospel begins with an introduction which is dedicated to a certain Theophilus. It is possible that Theophilus was a benefactor who had commissioned Luke’s work. The name Theophilus (Θεóφιλος) means “friend of God.” Is it not also possible that it is dedicated to each of us who are friends of God?
After this introduction we jump ahead three chapters to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Here Jesus applies a passage from Isaiah to himself, affirming that he is the Christ—that is, the Lord’s anointed. Having celebrated the Christmas mystery as the birth of the Messiah, we now begin to reflect upon what this means by listening to the accounts of his ministry and of his preaching.
The Spirit of God is emphasized in the writings of Luke. The Spirit of God is also emphasized in today’s Second Reading, as Paul reminds us that “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body … and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” In this one Spirit, received in baptism and confirmation, we become truly “Christians”—that is, anointed ones.
This Sunday we begin Catholic Schools Week. Our Catholic schools are helping parents instill Catholic faith and values in their children. Bishop Callahan will celebrate Mass at McDonell Central High School on Tuesday, January 30, at 9:30 AM, for the students from all the Catholic schools in the Chippewa Falls Deanery. You are all welcome to attend.
This coming Saturday, February 2, is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which we also reflect upon as the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. It comes 40 days after Christmas. The event it commemorates is Mary and Joseph fulfilling the prescription of the Law of Moses that a firstborn son was to be presented to the Lord and redeemed by a sacrifice. This was to remind the Israelites that the plague of the death of the firstborn was what had gained them their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. (Cf. Exodus 13:14-15) The mystery it celebrates is the recognition of the Infant Jesus as the Christ, the Lord’s anointed. This feast is also the occasion for blessing candles for liturgical and home use. There will be a Mass at St. Charles at 8:30 this coming Saturday morning to celebrate this feast.
Next Sunday, February 3, is the Memorial of Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, the patron saint against illnesses of the throat. Although the Mass for this memorial will not be celebrated because it falls on Sunday this year, the blessing of throats will be imparted after the Masses next weekend.
Pray the Rosary this week for students, parents and teachers, and for all who are a part of our Catholic schools. Pray for the homeless and all who suffer because of the cold, and for people sick with the flu. Pray for those in the armed forces serving abroad and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.