January 22, 2017 — Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
In his letter to the Corinthians, our Second Reading, Paul makes an appeal to the Christian community in Corinth. Paul writes, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and purpose.” It would seem that not much has changed over the centuries. There are still divisions in the Christian community, and even in our own parish and faith communities these may well exist. Paul’s call to unity is echoed in the other readings on this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as well.
As the readings progress there is a sense of order to them. At the heart of the First Reading from the prophet Isaiah is what should unify us and that is the presence of Christ. Isaiah prophesies in relation to Jesus and His Messianic arrival, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Christ, the Light of the World, is that light, of course. It is He who unites us, who inspires us to work together toward unity, and who provides us with the joy at what His sacrifice and promise for us portends. Jesus’ victory is complete, but we must accept that and respond to that.
As indicated in the opening, St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians concentrates on the discord that has developed in the Church in Corinth. This was reported to Paul by “Chloe’s people” who evidently came to Paul because of what was happening; however, the fact that they are called “Chloe’s people” indicates that they may have been even another faction in that Church. For Paul this is most likely frustrating. It is believed that Paul spent more time in Corinth than anywhere else; thus, when rifts occur there, they are particularly painful to Paul the Apostle.
Paul’s point, and the focus we need to concentrate on, is that Jesus the Lord should be the center of our faith and the center of our Church. For us as Catholics that is the case, but the reality indicates that it is not always the reality we experience. Before we can eliminate the worldwide factions that have arisen through the centuries we must remove any conflicts that may exist in our own faith communities. That is certainly part of Paul’s point in today’s reading. Jesus gives us the answer to these disagreements over and over when He says, “Love one another.” It is really quite simple.
The Gospel Reading includes a restatement exactly of what we heard in the First Reading from Isaiah. This, of course, is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and then throughout His part of the world and then through His disciples in our own world. We have pointed out previously that when Jesus called His Twelve Apostles, eleven of them were Galileans (the only exception being Judas Iscariot who was a Judean). Galilee, although we tend to focus on fishermen in the Sea of Galilee, was mainly agricultural with rich fertile soil. According to figures from historians, the population of Galilee at that time was about 3 million people. Galilee is not large, being smaller than our state of Connecticut. It was a natural place for Jesus to minister initially for many reasons: it was His native place; the population was large and compact; and there were an estimated more than 200 significant towns there. Also, that is where Holy Scripture (Isaiah) said He would begin.
Of course, a key part of our Gospel Reading is the onset of the Lord gathering His Apostles, as He initially calls Peter and his brother Andrew, closely followed by the brothers James and John. It is important to note that their response was immediate: “At once they left their nets and followed him (Jesus).” There were no debates, no discussions, and no long considerations. That is a great example to us. Do we hesitate; do we wait to become a disciple of the Lord? We really should not. If we accept Him as our Savior and as the cornerstone of our Church, our response, too, should be immediate and definite.
That after all is where division and depression are eliminated entirely, with acceptance and agreement and obedience. It is never easy, but it is what we are called to do as stewards of the Lord’s Church and of our faith communities.