Sunday, January 20, 2008

January 27: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

27 January: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Isaiah 8:23-9:3; 1 Cor 1:10-13,17; Matthew 4:12-23

This Sunday the readings focus our attention on two central themes that are closely related: Christ who is revealed as the light; and Christ in whose name we are united. Both these themes are interwoven. This past week from January 18 to 25, Christians all over the world prayed in response to the call of Jesus for the unity of all his followers (cf. John 17:21). The readings therefore lead us to reflect on the reality of divisions. Such divisions whether within a nation or between Christians, always cast a shadow over that nation and weaken the power of Christian witness. The first reading gives an example of the kingdom established by David which was torn apart soon after Solomon’s death. Foreigners invaded the Northern Kingdom in 733-32 BC and occupied it, and further threatened the Southern Kingdom of Judah. For centuries thereafter, darkness reigned all over Israel. But today’s first reading prophesies a great light in time to come. Great joy and happiness would be restored. A king of peace would come to establish freedom and unify Israel forever. The second reading gives another example of divisions in the Christian community of Corinth. Paul reminds the Christians there that they belong to Christ, and not to any particular apostle who may have baptized them. It is the death and resurrection of Christ symbolized in their baptism, which brings them together.

In the Gospel, Jesus begins his ministry at a time when John the Baptizer has been arrested for his firm and decisive witness. In the first reading therefore, Jesus is the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.” Jesus Christ is our light and source of unity in a world that is very much in need of enlightenment and unity. Ideological differences, Regional and civil wars, ethnic conflicts and Christian divisions continue to cast a deep shadow over the world. Our Christian faith and hope, however, tell us that some day a great light will indeed shine and unity restored. The source of that light and unity is Jesus Christ. His call for repentance leads us to be transformed into God’s authentic witness in a world overshadowed by darkness. Our witness will only be effective if we are first transformed into the light of Christ and signs of unity in Christ. Only then shall we lead others to walk in the light and to cast away differences. The central message could be summed up in three points: 1) The readings remind us that as Christians we are called to unity that requires true conversion of heart and mind towards God and others. 2) As longs as Christians remain in darkness and divided, the light of Christ will continue to be overshadowed, weak and unconvincing. 3) Unity between Christians can be a powerful instrument for ending divisions no matter how deep and conflicts no matter how vicious, and help lead to peace, unity and reconciliation.

©2008 John M. Mbinda

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