Ezra the scribe and priest and Nehemia the political official worked together, as this weekend’s first reading shows, to bring the people of Israel back to following the Law of the Lord and built them up again after their nation had almost been destroyed. They gave back to the people one of God’s greatest gifts which had been lost: the Law which told them how to live peacefully and justly, serving their God.
In the Gospel we hear this weekend, by reading from Isaiah, Jesus reminded his community of the other great gift God gave to his people: the Prophets. The life of the people of Israel was meant to be built on these two pillars: the Law and the Prophets. Every society needs laws to regulate its life, to share its resources justly, to protect the weak and the vulnerable, but every society tends to allow things to get out of balance, to forget where the gifts came from, to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a few, to neglect the poor and the needy. That’s why every society needs prophets, to remind people of their core values, to call them back to a way of life that reflects the goodness and mercy of God.
Then St Paul tells us again, in the second reading, that the Spirit and the mission given to Jesus have been passed on to us through our Baptism. We are now the Body of Christ, sent to bring good news to the poor, liberty to captives, new sight to the blind, to set the downtrodden fear and proclaim the Lord’s year of favour. None of us is Jesus. No one of us can do this alone – it will take all the different gifts we have. Paul mentions apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle-workers, healers, helpers, leaders and linguists but there is no end to the list of ways in which the Spirit has been poured out on us – everybody’s gifts are needed for us to be, together, the Body of Christ and to carry out his mission.
Pope Francis, one of today’s prophets, is always calling us to this joyful task and especially to remember two things St Paul says: the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest are the most indispensable and when one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it.