Chapter Talk – Third Sunday of the Year – January 23, 2022, cycle-C
For the readings of this Third Sunday, it is striking that two great voices and thinkers converge around one word: ‘today’. Those voices are Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar and Pope Francis. Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar in his commentary on the readings for the Eucharist compares the ‘today’ of the first reading with the ‘today’ spoken by Jesus in the gospel. Ezra’s proclamation in the Old Testament reading is uplifting. He says to the people who are weeping as they receive the word of God: ‘Today is holy to the Lord your God….Today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). Jesus’ proclamation that the ‘Spirit of the Lord is upon me’, and ‘Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing’ (Luke 4:18, 21) creates consternation among many of his listeners. They wonder ‘who is this’, and the words Jesus speaks “seem blasphemous and…incomprehensible to his listeners” (Light of the Word, p.272). With this text from the Epistle: “All have been given to drink of the one Spirit” (1 Co 12:13), von Balthasar then asks this question: “But what does ‘today’ mean for us today” (p.272)? Here is his response to his question: “Only the Whole, Christ, is indivisible,…Our differentness is not for us alone but for all others, who corporately make up the indivisible Whole. And this is an ethical, not a physiological, matter: In Christ’s constant Today we live for him and one another. Each of us has a personal, irreplaceable task, but not for its own sake, rather for the living whole” (p.272-273). Sisters, our unique differences make up the whole…we form ONE body of Christ each contributing in her own individual way, yet always with the understanding that it is for building up the body of Christ, the body of God’s love and mercy. Together let us hold the image of a community so united around this one body of Christ, a living and active body, with the unique gifts of each of its members, all doing their tasks for Christ and for one another.
The second voice, Pope Francis, instead of the word ‘today’ he uses the word ‘now’. The Pope writes: “Jesus reveals the now of God, who comes to meet us to take part in his now…” (Homily, 1/27/2019). This now of God is today…it is always today. The encounter with Christ is now…a living encounter of mercy and love, an encounter where our faith is alive and active. Our faith becomes in the words of Pope Francis, “not a suit of armor that encases us but rather a fascinating journey, a constant and restless movement, ever in search of God, always discerning our way forward” (quoted in Commonweal, Austen Ivereigh, 2022). Jesus, Pope Francis will say, is not ‘meantime’…meaning ‘in the meantime’: no Jesus is now…he is today bringing us what we need if our hearts are not hardened by doubts and fears…we simply need to give ourselves over in faith to the living encounter with Christ that is ‘today’…and is every day!!! These poetic words from Psalm 94 are life-giving in the now of our lives: “Today, if you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts”.
And with this ‘good news’ we should like the Jewish people of old fall to our knees, weeping with tears of joy and thanksgiving, as we receive this news of ‘God with us’ now, today, always today. This living Divine encounter is present now, all around us, and when we are quiet and still enough, we will discover the utter simplicity, the humility of God’s gift dwelling within us.
Sr. Kathy Devico, Abbess