22nd Week, Monday, August 31

1 Cor 2:1-5 / Luke 4:16-30
I spoke with no eloquence: The Spirit, however, spoke through me.
Malcolm Muggeridge, the BBC-TV celebrity, interviewed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The verdict on the interview was that it was hardly usable on TV. Mother Thresa's delivery was halting, and she spoke with a rather thick accent. One BBC official, however, felt that the interview had a mysterious power and held out for its use on a Sunday night. To everyone's surprise, viewer response to the program was amazing-both in terms of mail and contributions. 
What came through was not the eloquence of Mother "Theresa, but the power of the Spirit acting through this saintly woman. It was the same power Paul speaks about in today's reading. Every preacher experiences the phenomenon of a technically perfect homily, delivered with gusto, which still falls flat with little or no impact. At other times, words simply spoken from the heart seem to touch people in a deeply personal way. For some reason they work and the Spirit moves.

The homilies we can recall, perhaps only in bits and pieces, were probably not delivered by exceptional or celebrated speakers. Yet something of their words have remained with us and perhaps have changed us as well. The Spirit works through the speaker. Simple words can strike us with enormous force if we are willing to listen.
Jesus was a local boy from Nazareth! And as is cited elsewhere in the New Testament, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (cf. John 1:46). There were no scriptural hopes connected with Nazareth; it was simply an unimpressive town on a major trade route. But God’s ways are not our ways. It is the small and insignificant things out of which God’s will is realized. This is verified repeatedly in the prominent persons of the New Testament.

This is also the clear message that Paul sets forth today. It was not with words of wisdom that Paul addressed the people of Corinth. Rather it was with fear and trembling that he preached to them, not with the power of rhetoric, but with a single topic, Jesus Christ crucified. It was evident then that whatever was accomplished was solely the work of God.

Do we seek the Holy Spirit's guidance   in dealing with difficult situations? Jesus said, "The words you speak will not be yours; they will come from the Holy Spirit." Mark 13:11 
Paul reminds his Corinthians that he had preached them the simple, uncomplicated message of the crucified Christ. That was a message of faith, not of human wisdom. From now on until Advent begins, we shall read the gospel of Luke, the evangelist who pays special attention to the Holy Spirit, the mercy of God, Jesus’ special concern for the poor, the role of women in the life of Jesus, and the liturgy. Luke presents his gospel in the form of a journey from Nazareth in Galilee to Jerusalem.

Today we hear about the beginning of the so-called public life of Jesus, his program set for him by the Spirit. He announces salvation as starting “today” with his teaching and working among the people. For us too, the time of grace is today, in our time, with the Lord working and living among us now.

One of the primary tasks of the priest is to preach the Word of God. Preaching the homily at Mass is his duty and he is obligated to prepare for it.
 Yet the task of preaching is indeed challenging because the people of God thirst for the Word to be made flesh in their lives. They yearn to experience scriptural teachings translating in their everyday life.
 So, priests and preachers will understand what St. Paul meant when he said: I came among you in great fear and trembling in the speeches and sermons that I gave.
 But, he also quickly added that none of his preaching belonged to philosophy. Rather it is a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. It was with the power of the Spirit that Jesus went back to Nazareth, and at the synagogue, He read the passage from the prophet Isaiah.
And the people were astonished by the gracious words that came from His lips. But it is so easy to let human thinking as well as criticism come into the way of the Word of God. As we could see it from the gospel, the people started to make a judgment about Him and subsequently rejected Him. Human beings may be endowed with knowledge and intelligence, but we must also remember that God's ways are not man's ways. The book of the prophet Isaiah has this passage (Isa 55:8-9): My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.  May our minds and hearts be opened to God's revelation as He speaks to us through His Word. May our faith be not dependent on human philosophy but on the power of God.
Let us pray:
God, Father of mercy and love, you let your Son announce to us that today is the time of grace. Let his Spirit be upon us today, that in the poverty of our own hearts we may hear Jesus’ stirring message, that blind as we are, he may give us eyes of faith, and that he may set us free from the captivity of our fears and selfishness. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.