Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Work of the Spirit-Free at Last

Reflection on the Readings
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 24, 2010 - Year C
By Dennis Hankins

The Work of the Spirit - Free At Last

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee...He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..."

He was a promising Pentecostal preacher boy. He was called the walking Bible, given his ability to quote large portions of Scripture from memory as he preached.  My Dad heard the 16 year old Charles Crank preach in Floyd Knobs, Indiana at a Revival meeting.  In later years the Reverend Crank became the Indiana District Superintendent of the Assemblies of God.  Throughout the years he continued to stir congregations with his ability to quote Scripture and preach its meaning. It was liberating preaching.

In Pentecostal circles you were expected to know your Bible, if you were called to be a preacher.  It was a sign of your calling if you knew the Scriptures and could preach them with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  

But love of the Scriptures is found also in the local Catholic parish.  Every Sunday you will hear an Old Testament Reading, a Psalm, a reading from the Epistles and then the Gospel reading.  A brief review of the Catechism of the Catholic Church reveals the Church's grasp and love of the Scriptures.  

In the first reading, the renewal of the people of God under Ezra and Nehemiah begins with the reading and the hearing of the Scriptures.  The exiles kept alive the hope of returning to the promised land by keeping as best they could the words of Moses in a strange land.  The folks back home waned in faith without a Temple and Altar around which to hear the word and practice the prescribed rituals of sacrifice.  

It was in this environment the returning exiles and the locals hear again the words of Moses and begin to rebuild the Temple and the Altar and their lives.  This rebuilding process begins with the hearing of the words of Moses found in the Scroll from which Ezra read.  

It is this holy reading to which the people respond as with an oath, raising their hands and shouting, "Amen, Amen," or "let be unto me." 

Just as the exiles discovered their destiny, St. Paul describes the Church and its destiny.  The working of the Spirit reminds us that each of us is important as we take our place in the Temple not made with hands.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jew or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit. Each one of us finds our own spiritual destiny from the same life giving Spirit.  There are no little 'You's' or big 'I's,' in the body, which is his Church.  We all are made free by the same Spirit.

In today's Gospel, Jesus announces a new time of the Spirit's work.  Isaiah the prophet anticipated this renewal and restoration coming through a person anointed by the Spirit.  And it is in the person of Jesus in whom the Spirit abides without measure, so that it is Jesus who inaugurates a year of jubilee, proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord.

Such a year occurred every 50 years in Israel.  In the year of Jubilee there was the cancellation of debt and servitude.  On the tenth day of the seventh month on the Day of Atonement a loud trumpet blast announced the beginning of a new day of human and spiritual freedom in Israel.  Although you could have heard a pin drop when Jesus read this passage from Isaiah, it was his voice becoming the ancient sound of the trumpet blast announcing the year of the Lord, a new and everlasting Jubilee.

The year of the Lord, a new era of the work of the Spirit continues in the Church lead by apostles, prophets, and teachers. Nothing else can penetrate the world enslaved by sin and guilt.  From the Church come mighty deeds, gifts of healing, administration and varieties of tongues.  For what?  To bring good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to the enslaved and new eyes for the blind and liberty for all those in oppression.

This past MLK day I read again the 'I Have A Dream,' speech Dr. Martin Luther King delivered August 28, 1963 in  Washington, DC.  If you haven't read it recently, read it

The closing words of that speech capture the animation of the Spirit I feel and I hope you feel in the hearing of today's readings, especially the Gospel:

Free at last!  Free at last!  
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Let us pray: Dear Father of all Mercy, give unto thy Church a new vision of the work of the Spirit, and let it begin with a new love for Jesus, who for us and for the life of the world gives to us today his own body and blood.  Amen. 

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