Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 27)

Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” As he finishes this reading he proclaims: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The time of salvation has arrived. This is a time of rejoicing and gladness. He is the one who has been “anointed” to accomplish the Father’s saving plan, for the Spirit of the Lord is upon him. He is the one who will bring freedom and establish God’s reign. The Gospel recalls that Jesus returned to Galilee (after being baptized by John by the Jordan River) “in the power of the Spirit.” In the Spirit Jesus makes his proclamation. It is in the same Spirit that Jesus makes known the way of the Father.


In the same Spirit, St. Luke the Evangelist gives us a written account of the Gospel. The opening lines of the Gospel according to Luke state that he makes this presentation “after investigating everything accurately anew.” He writes “in an orderly sequence” so that “you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.”

St. Luke and the other evangelists have an important and significant role in the continuation of Jesus’ saving mission. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, writing in that same Spirit as members of the Body of Christ, they provide us a means to encounter the Risen Lord. St. Jerome, when he comments on the importance of Scripture, will go so far as to say: “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

The work of the evangelists and the other writers of Sacred Scripture help us to know the Lord and his way. Reading and listening to the Scriptures can bring us into a deep encounter with the Lord and his way especially when we read them in the same Spirit by which they were written.

The same Spirit inspired all the works of Sacred Scripture. The first readings from our liturgy this Sunday and throughout most of the year come from the Old Testament (a notable exception is during the Easter Season when this reading comes from St. Luke’s other work, the Acts of the Apostles).


First is the passage from the Book of Nehemiah. The setting in the life of Israel is sometime after the return from the Babylonian exile. Ezra brings the book of the law before the people gathered and reads it aloud to them. He reads it from “daybreak till midday.” Hearing the word proclaimed, Nehemiah, Ezra and all the priests proclaim: “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad and do not weep … go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”

The people are overcome by the proclamation of God’s word. In that word they encounter the Lord who loves them and shepherds them to life. We join in this joy in our responsorial psalm saying: “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.”

The same Spirit is poured out on the faithful at Pentecost and the church is born. It is this same Spirit which inspires Paul to write his letters. He eloquently speaks of the Spirit and the unity that comes about through the Spirit.

This Sunday we hear a passage from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. In this text he describes the church as a body made up of many members. Every person, just like every part of the body, has a role and is necessary for the whole so much so that he says: “if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all parts share its joy.” The union is so significant that Paul says: “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration and varieties of tongues.”

Everyone has a role in the church of continuing Christ’s mission. He is present in us and his saving work continues to be accomplished when we are one in the same Spirit for in Christ Jesus we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:22).

The communion of the church is visible in many ways. One way in which this union is visible but also through which it is sustained is the celebration of the liturgy. All the church’s liturgies are full of the Word of God which is proclaimed as readings, in prayers and in the sacraments celebrated. Our worship is celebrated in the same Spirit which was poured out on Jesus, through which the Scriptures are written and now by which they are proclaimed and heard.

As we worship the Lord and give him thanks we are nourished by his word, and sacrament, for this journey of life. The joy we share is not necessarily, nor does it need to be, an emotive one but one that comes from the heart of life itself — from the Spirit dwelling in and among us.


Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.