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Ordinary Time 3 (A)
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Readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

1. Isaiah 8, 23 to 9, 3

  • First the Lord degraded the land.  According to the prophet, God is acting in history.  I am not reading legends.  For him (and for us) the losses and devastation on Israel’s northern frontier cannot be chalked up to enemy armies that just decided to plunder.  They acted as God’s instruments. 
  • And the reversal that came later will not be attributed to Israel’s army.  He has glorified the seaward road.  After defeat, recovery.  I am not reading the prophet’s foretelling of things to come, but his interpretation of a nation’s reprieve.  Everything is the Lord’s doing.  Once again, we are reaching deeper to the ultimate cause of events.
  • This frontier region, the District of the Gentiles (“Galilee” in today’s Gospel), plays a very small part in the official history of the people.  But it will rank high in Matthew’s narrative because Jesus began his public ministry there.
  • Anguish has taken wing.  There is a mood of relief all through this passage, a lightening of spirit.  Let my reading reflect it.    
  • A great light – not terrible like the flash of an atomic explosion but a saving light, cleansing and liberating. 
  • The day of Midian.  The reference to past glory links it with the present.  Do we have anything comparable in our own history?  Or are the advances of Vatican II and the witness of martyrs and confessors just dead letters?
  • Climax: Abundant joy, brought by God. 
  • Message for our assembly: What does God expect of a people that dares to claim for itself the rights of “one nation under God”?
  • I will challenge myself: To find my most encouraging voice, in the spirit of Psalm 115 (“Give yourself, not us, the glory!”)  Let it last in our assembly through the proclaiming of the Gospel.

2. I Corinthians 1, 10-13 and 17

  • I urge you, brothers and sisters.  I notice that the apostle does not order.  To order is not the ordinary way of Christians among themselves.  When Monseņor Romero gave his order the day before his own death, it was to stop the soldiers from murdering unarmed lay ministers and peasants.
  • That you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.  Again the union is not being coerced or directed from a central authority, but emerges from the community under the apostle’s prompting and by the working of the Spirit.  After I say those words, I will pause before beginning the denunciation, which was the motivation of his appeal for unity.
  • It has been reported to me...  The factions have formed around the one who first preached to them.  It happens among us now, of course.  We form around eloquent preachers.  We define truth for our convenience.  We print bumper stickers that promote our parish and our pope.  After saying I belong to Christ (left understood: “And you don’t!”) I will pause again to let the apostle’s reaction be received and felt in our own assembly.
  • Climax: Is Christ divided?  I should let a sense of outrage well up in me, building through the third word.  This is one proof that we are (or are not) Jesus’ disciples.  The historical fact of division has given some churches justification for discarding the past and beginning anew.  I should pause again after the name of Paul, to indicate a different direction.
  • Christ sent me to preach the gospel.  This is the role the apostle sees for himself.  Is this only the clergy’s prerogative?  Not if we follow the call to evangelization. 
  • The message for our assembly: “In the essentials, unity.  In non-essentials, diversity.  In all things, love.”  This does not mean that we renounce our gifts or our differences, but we put them to work for the good of all.
  • I will challenge myself: To pray for unity in our own assembly as I read the apostle’s appeal, over and above the act of overhearing what he said to the Corinthians.

Gospel. Matthew 4, 12-23

  • When Jesus heard that John had been arrested.  The reading starts with a reminder of hostile forces that would dog Jesus’ tracks and threaten the spread of the gospel in the centuries after his death.    
  • He withdrew to Galilee.  This is a good place for a pause before the mission begins.  He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum.  The whole passage is filled with movement.  He was walking.   He went around all of Galilee.
  • Galilee of the Gentiles.  These are the key words of the prophecy, in terms of today’s Gospel.  The district was a crossroads place filled with Gentiles, who will also see the light.  In a sense Galilee has supplanted Jerusalem as the focal point of Jesus’ ministry.
  • The whole passage is also filled with action: preaching, teaching, proclaiming, curing, calling.  I want the assembly to hear and digest all of it.
  • Climax: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  The invocation is more real than that of any politician’s campaign slogan, because God guarantees it.
  • He saw two brothers.  They are real people, working at everyday chores like everyone else in town. Jesus is not the only one who is like us in everything.  So are his disciples. 
  • At once... immediately they left their nets, their boat and their father.  For the evangelist, it is a question of a sudden encounter and conversion.  Yes, I hear a kind of repentance, of turning away from their former lives, their families, and their livelihood.  Whether it actually happened in a flash or over a few months, a break with the past did take place.
  • Message for our assembly: As we embark on another journey through Ordinary Time, do we believe that the Jesus we meet in the Gospels is alive in our midst?
  • I will challenge myself: Not to rush a long passage that is so filled with movement.

From Word to Eucharist: Today is a new opportunity to turn to the Lord.  We may turn from open sin or dissolution, or from a half-hearted following.  Let us grow in enthusiasm for the road show, and renew the church’s evangelization work today.

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