Third Sunday of Ordinary Time - Scripture Soundings
First Reading: Isaiah 8:23 -- 9:3
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23 [12-17]
This Sunday begins the Church's long meditation on the Gospel according to Matthew, which unfolds for the thirty-three Sundays in Ordinary Time. This Gospel seeks to connect Jesus to the Old Testament.
The stories of the birth of Jesus repeatedly interject a reminder: "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet ..." (Matthew 1:22). And so in today's Gospel reading, Matthew tells us that Jesus carries out his mission to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy.
In this case, Jesus is compared to the Isaian prophecy of a great light flooding the land of Galilee, that place of the Gentiles. In that region on the seashore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus began gathering disciples. The four fishermen, Peter and his brother Andrew, along with the Zebedee brothers, James and John, abandoned their business and followed Jesus immediately.
Scripture scholars tell us that the original language connotes a sense of inevitability and urgency in Jesus' call to these four men and in their spontaneous, unquestioned response. There was no fence-sitting here, and no hesitation. The time had come and the four fishermen knew deeply that this was their once-in-a-lifetime chance. They immediately abandoned everything to follow him.
The people of Israel were schooled to expect a messiah who would act in specific, recognizable ways, such as bringing about health and healing and freedom from the oppression and anguish of sin. The words of the prophet Isaiah that we read today rang a bell in Jesus' time.
The sound of the smashing of all instruments of bondage was music to their ears. The constraining yoke that connoted the bearing of terrible burdens would finally be thrown off. The false power of the taskmaster would finally cease.
A new song could be heard in the land. The proclamation of Jesus was good news. Something was new in the land. Some one was new, and he intended to make all things new. Words were followed by effective deeds--people were cured of every disease and affliction of body and soul.
The messianic expectations were being fulfilled.
With all this good news and freedom, with all this light and salvation, what is askew in Corinth? Well, the good news given must be received. Paul bore the good news to Corinth, and it was received. As early as A.D. 51, Paul labored for a year and a half in this sophisticated, tough sea town. And now, a few years later, the hearers had forgotten.
The freshness had worn off; the honeymoon was over. The assembly experienced the strain that threatened to tear it apart. They boasted of their mentors--"Apollos baptized me; I follow Cephas," a version of the childish "my dad's bigger than your dad." The Corinthians drew their worth from light reflected from this or that authority figure.
Paul reminds the Corinthians of the primacy of Christ. He reminds them to whom they belong, in whose life they share, to whom they owe their salvation. Paul is very clear and quite blunt. He reminds them that they all belong to Christ. Period. In his cross alone they are saved. This is the faith they must live by.
One can easily understand why Paul addressed this burgeoning schism so rapidly. It is all too natural for people to align themselves with those whom they perceive to be great or superior in some way. This is beside the point, Paul reminds them.
The issue here is the cross of Jesus Christ and their identification with the crucified and risen one. Everyone and everything else is in service to him. He is Lord, and all the baptized belong to him. Paul pleads for the unity and harmony in the household that simply must rest its faith in Christ and his cross.
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Updated: October 23, 2010