I Corinth 12: 12-30; Luke 1: 1-4, 4: 14-21
The gospel we read and hear today is actually split from two different chapters, from chapter one and four and so a great deal happens, obviously, in between the two, like the birth of both John the Baptist and Jesus. After Luke gives a bit of explanation to Theophilus as to his writing of this version of the gospel, we then meet Jesus now as an adult at the inauguration of his public ministry, in many ways, with a return to Nazareth. He’s the “local boy done good” as they all look on with great intent, wondering where this has all come from. He’s no longer the little boy that they had once known but has grown into something and someone else.
He inaugurates his public journey with this quote from Isaiah where the Spirit is upon him, glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, oppressed go free and so on, now presenting to the people, and to us, his mission statement about who he is and the direction which he is about to lead. It had to be somewhat new for them to hear such things that they are left speechless as they listen to him. Over these past weeks we have heard how God has been made manifest. First as an infant to the shepherds and the magi. We then hear the voice from the heavens at his baptism proclaiming his identity. Last week it was the wedding at Cana and the act of water into wine. Today, once again, God is being revealed in another way, in a deeper identity, in the Word. “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” are the words Luke has Jesus utter to the crowds. The mission of the Word made flesh.
But what does it all mean? Paul gives some insight as well in today’s second reading as we continue through First Corinthians. Last week it was the many gifts and same Spirit and today it is the image of the body. What can be more flesh than that?!? It was no different in the time of Corinth when there was a misunderstanding of the body and how important it really was. Like so many to this day, it’s seen as something less than. It’s something that is abused and taken advantage of in different ways. It’s seen as something as less important and that it’s only about what is within, the heart and soul. But that’s where Paul tries to lead us in a different direction in our understanding. The body, and he uses the image by varying degrees in describing the value of the eyes and ears and how it is all necessary, but even more the body is how the heart and soul are embodied, enfleshed. When they work together rather than against one another, we allow the incarnate one to be fulfilled within and through us as well. When the body acts in conflict with the heart and soul, as it collectively did in the community of Corinth, problems arise, divisions occur.
The readings challenge us one again to become who it is we have been called to be in this life. The more we allow the heart and soul to lead, the more we experience that fullness of the Word within us. We live in a time of great division and conflict, just as in the time when Paul writes. Now, we experience it on such a global scale it’s hard to know where to start and what’s most important. I’ve said it before, we are on a search for the heart and soul which helps us to our true identity, the mission we have been entrusted to. All too often, in many people I have met, so many are just going through the motions of life, feeling disconnected in life. If we reflect that back to ourselves, we see there is a deeper longing in life, something that is trying to come alive within us and in the larger community. Along comes this “local boy done good” into our lives and things begin to change. Sure, the people will turn on Jesus as they so often do, but there lives are changed forever because of the encounter. Deep down the word is planted in that encounter and they will never be able to run from the word trying to take on flesh, to become a lived reality, to become who we really are. When we finally surrender, the words Jesus utters to the people today are the words uttered from deep within, your mission is fulfilled today. What had been disconnected, our heart and soul, our head and heart, our deepest identity and the body, becomes one. Then the people look with intent because we are no longer of this world but of someone beyond, leading us to our own mission and the mission of Christ proclaimed.