Homily 3rd of October 2019 Nehemiah 8:1 – 4a, 5 – 6, 7b – 12; Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11; Luke 10:1 – 12
Homily presented by Sister Madeleine Fredell OP, Santa Brigida Chiesa, Rome
Theologian and Secretary General of the Swedish Justice and Peace Commission.
Ezra is proclaiming the good news: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who have nothing prepared”! That is the Law in its essence, the Way of our God. It is not accusing us, but encouraging us to celebrate!
Preaching can certainly be a strenuous task, both for the preacher and even more so for the congregation. We have endured endless boring words. Everything from dusty exegesis to patronizing exhortations. All of it making us feel bad and unworthy of the festive banquet. But the Law, the Torah, the Way of God, should make us rejoice, it is there to refresh our hearts and enlighten our eyes. And so, should the Gospel. How come that we more or less fall asleep during the homily?
We simply close our ears because it is not interpreted and made real. The word is not being contextualized and actualized to us and so it is left without meaning. Today’s reading from the book of Nehemiah is one of my favorites. Why? Because it is underlining what is most important in all conversations, in all teaching and preaching, namely, the essential Targum in all communication. When the Law was read to the people it was proclaimed in Hebrew. But most of the people didn’t understand Hebrew, they spoke Aramaic, and therefore Ezra gives an interpretation of it, a so called, Targum. But a Targum is not only an interpretation but also and essentially an actualization of the Law in Aramaic. It is as far as we can come from a Google-translation which would have rendered the Law even more incomprehensible. Instead, it is an actualization of the deeper meaning of the Law, or the Way of God, of Torah.
And what is that meaning? It is not about weeping and mourning and feeling bad and useless because we consider ourselves a failure. No, it is to stand up, and make the Way of God tangible for everybody. Ezra said: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who have nothing prepared”! That is the good news of the Way of God, interpreted afresh.
This is also what all of us here, we, the disciples of Jesus, shall do. We shall preach the good news of the Way of God. It is not about a dust-laden doctrine which can be kept in a show-case at a museum. No, it is about throwing a party and enjoying good company and sharing our different life experiences with one another, preferably over a glass of good wine. Then the kingdom of God is there, interpreted in real life. The harvest will be abundant and the number of laborers will increase by the minute!
We must be the good news, interpret it in a material and tangible way. When we are eating rich foods and drinking sweet wine and sharing what we have with those who are in want - then the Kingdom of God is at hand!