How do Nehemiah and Ezra respond? They say, "Do not be sad, and do not weep." They tell them to celebrate: "Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength." Basically they are being told: "Don't look back. Don't dwell on the past, nor on your failures. Learn from your mistakes but don't dwell on them. Be joyful because now you know better. You can make a fresh start."
Every Sunday God's Word is proclaimed in the Church. In fact, every day we have an opportunity to hear or read God's Word. But do we listen? The statistics say "no." In 2008 the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) took a survey of U.S. Catholic adults. The good news is that when asked if they had a Bible in their home 87% answered "yes." The bad news is that when asked how often they read that Bible in the past year 32% answered "never" and 31% answered "a few times." Apparently their Bibles were heirlooms in which to record significant family events and then to sit on a shelf gathering dust.
Another, informal survey found that the average Christian, including those who described themselves as "Bible-based" Christians, spent more time in one evening watching T.V. than the rest of the week reading the Bible. In other words, if one watched 3 hours of television on any given night, 3 hours or less were spent during the entire week reading God's Word. What does that say about what is forming the minds, the hearts, the attitudes and values of the average Christian?
We need to hear God's Word as much as the people of Nehemiah's time did. I have a CD that was created with music from the Great Jubilee Year 2000 World Youth Day. It's called "One" and it includes a song written by Steven Delopoulos and John Philippidis called "Basic Instructions." The "basic instructions" are found in the Bible which can be said to stand for "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth." The Bible--God's Word, God's Law--is our guide book for how to live in a way that leads to the Kingdom God has prepared for humanity from the beginning.
The Bible is not the sort of book that one can say, "I've read it several times. I know what's in it. I know the story and how it ends. There's nothing new there for me." The Bible is unlike any other book. We do not read the Bible for information nor for entertainment. We prayerfully read the Bible for "formation"--to have our minds and hearts formed by the "living Word" (see Hebrews 4: 12).
With today's technology there are new and convenient ways to make Scripture more a part of our lives. I have an app on my phone that can be found at www.downloadjesus.com. I also receive two daily email messages that briefly reflect on the Mass readings. One is from a group called "Presentation Ministries" ( https://www.presentationministries.com/obob/obob.asp ) and the other is from Bishop Robert Barron ( https://dailycatholicgospel.com/sign-up-daily-gospel ).
But the Eucharistic celebration is a special time and place where Jesus is alive, speaking to us through the Scriptures. Then, having our hearts set ablaze by the Word present in the Scriptures, Jesus opens our eyes to His special presence in the second part of our celebration, the breaking of the bread (see Luke 24: 30-32). The Word becomes flesh on our altars. The bread and wine are transformed into Christ's Body and Blood.
In this way today's Gospel (Luke 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21) is fulfilled. Jesus proclaimed a passage from the prophet Isaiah and announced "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." It's as though Jesus is saying: "Today you are not only hearing the Word of God you can see that Word in the flesh. You can see the one about whom Isaiah was speaking. You can see this Word standing in front of you accomplishing what was described."
At Baptism we were joined to the Body of Christ. This was not a mere enrollment into a human organization. A divine and organic union took place. And when we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, His very flesh, in Holy Communion, that baptismal union is nourished and strengthened. We are not individuals alienated from one another. We are, in the words of the second reading (1 Corinthians 12: 12-30) parts of One Body, the Body of Christ. We belong to one another. We need one another. We cannot exist apart from one another and our Head, Jesus. We are one and a sign to the world that unity and the peace that follows from it are possible. Only sin separates us from the Body, from Christ and one another.
Hearing this Word that God speaks to us today and seeing this Word made flesh and joining Himself to us, we go forth to fulfill the Word as Jesus did. We go and live the Word that is spoken, seen, and received. We hear God say to us through Nehemiah "Do not be sad." Do not look back. Do not live in the past regretting and resenting. Be joyful. Live in the present and be God's Word in the lives of others, one day at a time.