3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3
Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14 (1a)
1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
January 26, 2020
As John is arrested, Jesus begins his public ministry. Hearing of John’s arrest, Jesus “withdrew to Galilee” but we should not take his withdrawing as an act of fear.
His withdrawing to “the region of Zebulun and Naphtali” actually fulfills prophecies from Isaiah, thus showing that Jesus is the messiah, the one the people have been waiting for. He is the “great light” that had been foretold. They should listen to him.
Listen to him doing what? Matthew continues, “From that time on, Jesus began to preach.”
Yes, the first thing Jesus did was “preach”. Our gospel passage today ends, “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.”
Jesus did many great things. If you ask people what Jesus did, the Crucifixion likely would be the first answer. The second answer might likely be miracles but it is preaching, preaching the Word of God, that he did first.
Why did He preach the Word of God?
To fulfill the first reading. Isaiah speaks of those living in darkness to whom “a light has shone.” God is the one who created light at the beginning of time as we know it. God brought light to the world. Now, Jesus brings us “light” in preaching the “Word of God.”
The “darkness” that is “the yoke that burdens” us can come in many forms. It might be illness. It might be losing our home. Think of the Israelites taken away in the Babylonian Exile. Think of immigrants today who move from one country of another just trying to provide for their families. In offering us the Word of God, Jesus offers us the “light” that smashes “the yoke that burdens” us.
How is the Word of God “light” for us? How does the “Word of God” give us what we need to “wait for the LORD with courage” as our “refuge”?
Picture yourself in a room that you have never been in before. It is dark. Maybe you see some shapes but you can’t tell what they are. Is it safe to move? You don’t know what direction to move in. You don’t know what dangers there are.
Suddenly, a light comes on and you can see everything. You see a hole in the floor and you know to go around it. You can see your way to the door.
The light changed the way you see things. So, it is when we read and/or hear the Word of God. It changes the way we see things. We can’t find our way on our own. Jesus leads us with his light.
Without God’s Word, we each go our own way. Instead of unity, there are divisions and rivalries. This is not what we are created for.
Paul calls us to be “united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”
Whose “mind” and whose “purpose”?
Am I the one who is right? Or is it you? What about Bob or Jane?
What is to bring us together to the same mind and purpose?
It is the Word of God that can bring us to the same mind and purpose, but it is not my mind or purpose or yours. It is God’s. What do we pray in the Lord’s Prayer? “Thy will be done.”
God’s Word helps bring the unity to which we are called.
Thus, it is essential for us to know God’s Word.
With this in mind, Pope Francis recently declared that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time be celebrated every year as the “Sunday of the Word of God” for us to reflect on the importance of the Bible and God’s Word.
Catholics have a reputation for not knowing the Bible. Most Catholics can’t quote the Bible like some evangelicals. That doesn’t mean that God’s Word isn’t important.
It is. Half our Mass is centered on the Word of God with readings from both the Old and Testaments, a total of three readings plus a psalm. The homily is meant to help us know what God’s Word means for us in our lives today.
Many of the prayers for Mass at Mass are rooted in the Bible. Our current translations better reflect this. For instance, at the beginning of Mass, I say, “The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” This verse is not “made up” by the church. You can find it in Paul’s letters.
In last week’s gospel, we heard John the Baptist say, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” We hear these words at every Mass at Communion time.
The Bible very much influences our prayers at Mass.
Likewise, our church teaching is formed by the Word of God. If you look at the footnotes in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you will find many scriptural references.
As Catholics, do we read the Bible on our own? For many, the answer is no. Catholics used to be told not to read the Bible on their own for fear they might misinterpret it. That changed in 1943 when Pope Pius XII wrote an encyclical called Divino Afflante Spiritu, encouraging study of the Bible.
What do you do outside of Mass to let the light of the Word of God shine in your life?