January 26, 2014 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Two themes seem to reoccur throughout the readings for this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time — light and joy. As is often the case with Holy Scripture a deeper historical understanding is helpful in grasping the full nature of the message.
The first reading from the Book of Isaiah begins with the statement, “First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali.” Most of us are familiar with the fact that there were twelve tribes in Israel. The twelve tribes were headed by the twelve sons of Jacob. Zebulon was the second son and Naphtali was the sixth son. The lands referred to in Isaiah are the lands occupied by the tribes headed by those two sons. It is also important to know that these became the area we call Galilee, where Jesus began His ministry as we will see in today’s Gospel.
Isaiah prophesies that these lands of Zebulon and Naphtali will be blessed by the presence of the Christ and that He will bring to them the Gospel, the Good News. The presence of the Gospel will bring great light, great understanding, and great joy. “You have brought them great joy and abundant rejoicing.”
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, from which our second reading comes, parallels the first reading and the Gospel. St. Paul points out that he brought the Gospel to these people so that they might share in the light and joy of Jesus Christ. Paul is concerned about the divisions which have sprung up among the Corinthians. He clearly points out that it should not be he (nor Apollos nor Cephas) on whom they should focus, but on the Gospel, the Word, and on “our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As good stewards we may find ourselves, like the Corinthians, at times divided, at times in conflict with those near us and those whom we love. We, too, need to follow Paul’s advice to keep our concentration on the Lord, on loving Him, serving Him, and responding to His call to us.
Our Gospel reading from Mathew needs to be placed in context especially to the first reading. What is proclaimed in the Gospel occurs at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, just after His Baptism and after His 40 days in the desert. Upon His return He hears that John the Baptist has been imprisoned. In fulfillment of the prophecy we heard in the first reading, Jesus begins His ministry in Capernaum, the center of the region once known as the Land of Zebulon and the Land of Naphtali.
Jesus takes the next step by calling Andrew, Peter, James, and John to follow Him. This is the same calling about which Paul writes to the Corinthians, and to which each of us is called. Stewardship recognizes that we are called. In responding to that call as disciples of Jesus, we join in spreading the light of Christ and the joy of the Gospel.