3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 8:23-9:3
Psalm 27:104, 13-14
1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Matthew 4:12-23
January 22, 2017

Paul had helped start the Christian community at Corinth.  Now, he has heard about division and immorality going on there so he writes this letter to them to help them address the situation.

Today’s portion of Paul’s letter centers on divisions and rivalries that have arisen.  People are identifying themselves by who baptized them or taught them about the Christian faith.  They are saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos.”

Paul tells them that it doesn’t matter who baptized them or who taught them.  Everything and everyone should point to Christ not to human people.

We can see a lot of division in our society today and it is getting once.  We saw it in the elections in the Fall and we continue to see as the newly elected officials take office.

We can see division in general society over beliefs or background.

We can also see division in what it means to be Christian.  Who can count all the denominations?  Some of the denominations aren’t that different from each other while others are very different.  The Christian Church started as one.  The first major split came in 1054 when the Orthodox and Catholic Church split.  The next big split came in the Protestant Reformation.  This year is the 500th anniversary of when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors of a church in Germany objecting to some of the practices of the church.

It used to be it took major differences to lead to a schism or new denomination.  Now, people go looking for a church that follows their beliefs and if they can’t find it, they might go start a new church.

Martin Luther gets the credit for starting the Protestant Reformation but Luther didn’t want to start a new denomination.  His goal was to help correct points where he thought the Church had strayed.

Today we celebrate the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time of Year A.  This reading from Paul is the proper reading for today but it fits something going on right now.  There hasn’t been a lot of talk about it but this week we celebrate a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  It started last Wednesday on the 18th and will end on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on the 25th.

This week of prayer dates back to 1908 when the Atonement Franciscan Convent in the Episcopal Church outside New York City called for a week of prayer for unity.  Since then, many Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church have come together to pray for unity.

We need to pray for unity, both in the church and in secular society.  There is way too much division in the world.  We spend more time thinking about how we are different rather than how we are alike.

We can have different skin color.  We can speak different languages.  We can have different cultural practices but we all have one common creator who is one God.

Our belief is in one God but our God is a triune God.  There are three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  They are three persons yet one God coming together in perfect unity.  The Trinity gives us a model of unity for the Father, and the Son, and Holy Spirit, while three persons, work together with one Will.

Everybody united to do one will?  This meant seem impossible to imagine.  As I already said there are many divisions in the whole today.  It can be very hard to get people to work together.  A lot of people think they have the right answer.

When religious groups come together in dialogue, sometimes they just seem to look for the lowest common denominator of what they all believe in.  If we are sincere in working for unity, the lowest common denominator is only a starting point, not an end point.

In any dialogue it can often be best to start with what can be agreed upon.  This makes for a solid foundation.  For Christians this begins with the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that Christ was born, taught and cured many people, then died for us to show us salvation and the Resurrection.

This is what the light of Christ offers to all of us but our Catholic faith has so much more to offer.  We believe in the Real Presence, we believe in the moral teachings that comes from God.  We believe in the Communion of Saints.

We believe in these doctrines and many others yet we probably don’t talk about them often.  When we don’t talk about them, we forget about them.  For instance, since we don’t talk about Purgatory much, there are some people who think we stopped believing in it but it still exists.

Why don’t we talk about them?  The two reasons that come to mind for me are “fear” and our own “lack of knowledge.”  We fear getting into an argument with others and then we fear not have the knowledge to back up what we say.

We need to do our part to learn about our Catholic faith.  As we do this, we can turn to the same help, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to help us understand what our faith teachings and then the courage to dialogue with others about what we believe.

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