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Homily for the third Sunday of ordinary time, C

21 Jan 2022, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Our first reading this morning from the book of prophet Nehemiah is fascinating and apt for our world today. I would want to take us back to the background of this reading for a better understanding.

At a point in the history of Israel, they went into exile. Before they went on exile, Solomon had built a magnificent temple for them; in fact, that temple was the glory of Israel. But when the Babylonians captured Israel, their captors destroyed their beautiful temple, and they were in captivity for 70 years. So, you can imagine how minimal the younger generation of Israel knew about the God of their fathers and His dealings with men. When they returned to Jerusalem after 70 years in exile, the Israelites decided to rebuild their temple during the reign of King Josiah, and it was in that process they discovered the book of the law (Bible) in ruins. The book was read to the king, and he realized how far they’d gone from what the word of God says; the king tore his clothes as a sign of remorse and repentance. (2Kings 22:1-20).

Now, what happened in our first reading today is a follow-up to the story of the recovered book of the law. At this time, the rebuilding of the temple was completed, and the people were settled. So, they demanded that the text of the law be read to them. They were all summoned to the square facing the water gate, and Ezra, the priest, read the words of the book to the people from early morning to midday. In the end, they were all in tears; like King Josiah, they realized how far they’d gone away from the ways of God.

Dear friends, we live in a world today that has forgotten about God, a world where science is considered more powerful than God. A world where the younger generation no longer sees the need for God but sees belief in God as a sign of weakness and stupidity; our world today! A world where nightclubs are packed full, but Churches are empty. We live in a world and time where the sacraments of the Church are becoming irrelevant or mere ancient practices.

Dear friends, like ancient Israel, our world needs to be summoned to hear the word of God again, to be reminded of how far we’ve strayed from the ways of God. Many young people today call the faith of our fathers old school. Yet, the so-called new school is spiritually suffocating because it ignores the wisdom and knowledge of the old school.

Jesus, in our gospel passage this morning, entered the temple and stood up to read. The book of the law was handed to him, and he read from it to the hearing of everyone. And Jesus said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, the word of God has taken flesh, and he is here with you. It is written that Christ came in the flesh that we might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

Even though the world has sinned and strayed from God, the abundant mercy of God is still available to us in Christ Jesus. We only need to return to God as ancient Israel did, in remorsefulness and tears. God is merciful; he will forgive our sins and accept us back.

May God give us the grace and the courage to return to him. Amen.