Readings for January 27, 2019
Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
I am a “cradle Catholic.” I was baptised in the Catholic Church as an infant, have never stopped being Catholic, nor have I paused for any period of time going to Sunday Mass. My customary spiritual practices have been pretty consistent through the years. And most of these practices come from the example that Jesus set for me. In this week’s reading, Jesus goes to his hometown synagogue “according to his custom.” Importantly, it is “his custom.” Jesus practices his faith, regularly attending synagogue and setting an example based in ancient Law that I am called to follow still today.
That said, until more recently in my life, I admit that my participation had sometimes been practiced out of obligation, and other times more as an example to my children than out of repentance or for love of God. In that way I suppose I was a bit like the Israelites, who wept when the heard the Law read for the first time. Both my younger self and the Israelites needed to be reminded that the customs and laws of the church are a thing to rejoice in, and a reason to “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks.”
We told our kids something similar when they were young. On holidays, our kids had “no food rules.” They did not have to take their obligatory one-bite-for-every-year of their age of vegetables and fruit and whatever else on their plate they’d rather not eat at all — and of course they could have as much dessert as they wanted. As such, they looked forward to every holiday meal with nothing but joyous anticipation. We are called to have similar excitement for taking part in church.
I believe Paul expresses the importance of weekly church services when he uses the body as an example of unity in faith. If one part is missing, the whole body suffers. My fellow Christians need me, and I need them, to grow in our faith together and to live our lives as God has planned. When we choose to stop participating in our faith community (whether in body or in spirit), when we say “my personal relationship with Christ is more important than attending church services,” we choose to go it alone rather than participate in the teaching that we are the body of Christ. Our personal relationship with Christ can only be made whole through full participation in living out God’s Law as part of the Christian custom and part of our salvific observance.
In the Catholic Mass, the liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the words that, to me, explain why I must participate as fully as I am able: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give You thanks O God almighty Father, through Christ our Lord.” We pray as a community of faith, exponentially submitting our collective praise and worship to the One who is worthy of praise and worship. Yes, it is right, just, and our duty.
It is also our salvation. Jesus, who came to save me through his death and resurrection, regularly practiced his own faith through prayer and attending synagogue. If I consider that I am following his example as well as the will of his Father, I must similarly be a regular practitioner of my faith. Our customs of the spiritual practice and repentance should bring about our joy in the anticipation of our salvation.
My Lord Jesus, thank you for leading me by the example of your practice of faith. May my own practices bring glory to God our Father, through your name and with the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen