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January 23: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Is 8:23-9:3; 1 Cor 1:10-13,17; Matt 4:12-23
Christ the Light of the world and source of unity is the overarching theme for this Sunday readings. The readings draw our attention to two central themes that are closely related: Christ who is revealed as the light of the world; and Christ in whose name we are baptized and united. Both these themes are interwoven. This Sunday happens to be within the Octave of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - from January 18 to 25. During those dates, Christians all over the world pray in response to the call of Jesus Christ for the unity of all his followers, “That all may be one.” (John 17:21). The first reading leads us to reflect on the reality of divisions in the world and among Christians. Such divisions whether within a nation or between Christians, always cast a shadow over that nation and weaken the power of Christian witness. The reading gives an example of the kingdom established by David which was torn apart by divisions soon after Solomon’s death. Consequently, 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 binds them together as a Christian community.
In the Gospel, Jesus begins his ministry at a time when John the Baptist has been arrested for his firm and decisive witness. Matthew in the Gospel uses a passage from the First Reading to show that 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 therefore our light and source of unity in a world that is very much in need of enlightenment and unity in the midst of fragmentation. 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 someday a great light will indeed shine and unity will be restored. The source of that light and unity is Jesus Christ. As Jesus begins his ministry, He proclaims message of repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That message is a wakeup call for all Christ’s followers to be transformed into God’s authentic witnesses in a world overshadowed by the darkness of disunity due to human pride and selfishness. Our witness will only be effective if we are first transformed into the light of Christ and signs of the unity Christ willed for His Church; if we shed off our pride in realizing how much we need to be enriched by Jesus Christ, and by one another’s traditions. Every year on January 25, the Holy Father presides over the concluding Evening Payer Service at St. Paul’s Basilica, attended by members of the Roman Curia, parishioners in Rome and Christian of other Churches. In so doing, the Holy Father gives all Local Churches, all dioceses and parishes an example to follow, namely praying for Christian unity together with other Christians. That is a powerful witness and strong signal that the Catholic Church truly desires the unity of all Christ’s followers. Such an example will lead others to walk in the light and to cast away what divides us, while building on what already unites us. 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 other fellow Christians. 2) As long as Christians remain divided, their witness 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 in the Church and in the world.
©2011 John S. Mbinda
Ft. John's Homily & Music