The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 26, 2020

A Great Light (Isaiah 8:23—9:3)

Isaiah returns this week with another optimistic prophecy. The lands that dwelled in darkness will see a great light.

Zebulun and Naphtali were the first lands invaded by Assyria. Their oppression had been long and hard. The people who lived there feared that they would never again find happiness. Now they learn from Isaiah that God has heard their prayer. The yoke of their oppression has been shattered. Light has dawned upon their darkness.

Matthew cites this passage in his gospel to introduce Jesus to his readers. Those who had longed for the news of salvation received it in his teaching and ministry. Some of them had yearned for days of hope. Others did not even know how empty their lives had been. Now the true light dawns upon “the land overshadowed by death” (Mt 4:16).

Gloom takes many forms in our lives. Some suffer poverty and debt. Others close their hearts to charity. Still others sense overwhelming despair no matter where they turn.

Isaiah prophesies that we do not have to live that way. God hears the prayer even of those whose land has been “overshadowed by death.”

Open the eyes of faith, prepare yourself for good news, and see the light of Christ.

Divisions in the Community (1 Corinthians 1:10–13, 17)

Divisions may show up in any church community. They are signs of the sin we strive to overcome. People argue about the Mass, complain about the preaching, challenge the leadership, get angry at the staff, look down on the music, sneer at the school kids, cringe at infants, and laugh at the elderly. Church communities may be so distracted by the people they see that they neglect the people they do not see: the poor, the unchurched, the homebound—those who need to hear the message of Christ but who do not because Christians are too busy complaining about one another.

In first-century Corinth, Christians were making divisions along the lines of the ministers who baptized them. “I belong to Paul,” says one. “I belong to Apollos,” says another. “I belong to Cephas,” says still another. Um, don’t we all belong to Christ? But you will still hear voices of division: “I go to the 9:00 Mass.” “I sing with the adult choir.” “My kids go to Catholic school.” It is as if those who worship, sing, or get educated elsewhere belong to an entirely different family.

Paul urged the Corinthians to have no divisions. He wished them to be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.

When churches are divided, it often means that members are also privileged: privileged not to see the burdens of the needy, privileged to demand that things go their way, privileged to think that local problems merit more attention than global ones

Reflections: Lectionary Bulletin Inserts: Reflections on the First and Second Readings, Year A © 2019 Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications. All rights reserved. Written by Paul Turner. Lectionary for Mass © 2001, CCD.