4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Reflection

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time  [A]
January 30, 2011

Just as a good teacher summarizes what he’s going to say in class during the class’ first minute or two, so Jesus ¾ in the Beatitudes this Sunday ¾ summarizes all that he’s going to teach in the three years of his public preaching.  Matthew describes Jesus as a sort of New Moses:  that’s why he points out to us that Jesus went up a mountainside to preach the Beatitudes, just as Moses went up a mountainside to receive the Ten Commandments.  In some ways, the Beatitudes are like the Ten Commandments.  But on the other hand, the Beatitudes are much more profound, and much more difficult to live out in daily life.

Actually, the Beatitudes sum up more than just his preaching.  They also sum up the greatest action of Jesus’ life, as well:  the Beatitudes also help us understand the Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus.  Because in the end, Jesus did not save anyone by his preaching:  it was the death that he suffered on Calvary that opens the gates of heaven to us ¾ the gates that you will approach only at the moment of your death.

Saint Paul sums this up in the first letter that he wrote to the Corinthians.  He asks us to consider [our] own calling to live as Christians.  He reminds us that not many of [us] were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  Rather, God [chooses] the foolish of the world.

And in fact, that’s what people begin to think of as if we follow the Beatitudes in our lives.  The last of Jesus’ blessings especially sums up the meaning of being a “fool for Christ”, and allowing our Christian faith to shape our lives, to make a difference in what we do during the week, no matter whether we are in the classroom, in a dorm, at work, or visiting family.

The last blessing that Jesus gives is this:  Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.  When we listen carefully to Jesus’ words, we notice that this last blessing is the only Beatitude that Jesus gives directly to his followers.  The other beatitudes all begin, “Blessed are those WHO do this or that….”  These blessings could apply to any human being who tries to act virtuously in this world.

The last beatitude, however, is directed specifically to Jesus’ followers, to all of us who claim to be Christians.  This last beatitude applies only to those who are willing to become “fools for Christ.”  Jesus directs it to those who are willing to stand apart from a crowd and suffer rejection because they remain committed to living their faith in spite of pressure from others.

We might tend to think that this last and greatest beatitude applies only to those who live in foreign countries, where Christians are a persecuted minority.  In fact, it applies to each and every Christian ¾ it applies to you ¾ whether you think your life is filled with comfort or suffering.  Persecution comes not only in the midst of armed warfare, but just as surely in the midst of those who do not allow themselves to be caught up in the sort of smallness of thought, word, and actions that worldly attitudes lead us to believe are OK.  To stand against such worldly attitudes leads us to depend upon Christ, and upon the faith that makes us willing always to think, speak, and act as followers of Christ Jesus.

St. Thomas Aquinas - Office of Readings

St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church
January 28, 2011

From a conference by Saint Thomas Aquinas
The Cross exemplifies every virtue

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.

It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.

If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.

If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.

If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.

Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - First Reading

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
January 30, 2011

Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.
But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel.  They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.

Three times in Sunday’s First Reading we hear the words ‘humble’ or ‘humility’.  The experience of humility implies an agent:  that is, a person is humbled by someone (for example, a sibling, teacher, boss or enemy) or by something (for example, bankruptcy, sickness, failure to pass an exam or to obtain a loan).  There is a contrast between the weakness of the one humbled, and the power, success, or dominance of the one by whom, or by which, one is humbled.

The Old Testament prophet Zephaniah, of course, is here drawing a contrast between the spiritually humble people on the one hand, and the Lord on the other.  Each of the three times that ‘humble’ or ‘humility’ is used, the Lord is mentioned in either the preceding or following phrase:

·          Seek the Lord,
all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law….

·          … seek justice, seek humility;
perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.

·          But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly,
who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord….

In each of these three cases, there is an aspect of the Lord’s ‘nature’ or ‘being’ that is specifically mentioned:  “his law”, “the Lord’s anger”, and “the name of the Lord”.

Each of us as a Christian can still appreciate this Old Testament text.  Each of us can ask how he or she needs authentically to be humbled by the Lord’s law, anger, and Holy Name.

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - St. Thomas Aquinas

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
January 30, 2011

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

After showing that the method of teaching according to eloquent wisdom does not suit Christian doctrine by reason of its subject matter─the cross of Christ─the Apostle now shows that the same method is not suitable for Christian teaching by reason of the teachers according to Proverbs (26:7): “A parable is unseemly in the mouth of fools” and Sirach (20:22): “A parable out of a fool’s mouth shall be rejected.” Therefore, because the first teachers of the faith were not wise in carnal wisdom, it was not suitable for them to teach according to eloquent wisdom.
In regard to this he does [three] things: 
·         first, he shows how the first teachers of the faith were not versed in carnal wisdom and suffered from a defect in human affairs;
·         secondly, how this defect was made up for them by Christ;
·         thirdly, he assigns the reason.

26 For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth;
He says, therefore: It has been stated that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” and you can consider this in your own life; for consider carefully your call, brethren, i.e., how you were called: for you did not approach him by yourselves but you were called by him: “Whom he predestined he also called” (Romans 8:30); “He called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). But he urges them to ponder the manner of their calling by considering the ones by whom they were called, as Isaiah (51:2) says: “Look unto Abraham your father, and to Sarah that bore you.”
From these ministers of our calling he first of all excludes wisdom when he says: Not many of those by whom you were called were wise according to worldly standards, i.e., in carnal and earthly wisdom: “For this is not wisdom descending from above: but earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:15); “The children of Hagar also, that search after the wisdom that is of the earth” (Baruch 3:23). He says, not many, because some few had been instructed even in worldly wisdom, as he himself and Barnabas, or in the Old Testament Moses, of whom Acts (7:22) says that he had been instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Secondly, he excludes worldly power when he says: not many powerful, namely, according to the world; hence it says in John (7:48):  “princes of nations? They are cut off and are gone down into hell.”  Thirdly, he excludes lofty birth when he says: not many were of noble birth. Yet some of them were noble, as Paul himself, who said that he had been born in a Roman city (Acts 22:25), and others referred to in Romans (16:7): “They are men of notes among the apostles.”

27 but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,
Then when he says, But God chose, he shows that they were lowly according to worldly standards. First, he shows that they lacked wisdom when he says: what is foolish in the world, i.e., those whom the world would consider foolish, God chose for the offices of preaching, namely, ignorant fisherman: “Understanding that they were illiterate and ignorant men, they wondered” (Acts 4:13); “Where is the learned? Where is he that ponders the words of the law?” (Isaiah 33:18). And this to shame the wise, i.e., those who trusted in the wisdom of the world, whereas they themselves did not know the truths revealed to the simple: “Thou had hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed to the simple” (Matthew 11:25); “Where then are your wise men? Let them tell you what the Lord of hosts has purposed” (Isaiah 19:12).
Secondly, he shows that they lacked power, saying: what is weak in the world, i.e., men with no power in the world, such as peasants, plebeians, God chose for the office of preaching: “I will deliver them into your hand by the servants of the governors of the districts” (I Kings 20:13); and in Proverbs (9:3) it says that “wisdom has sent out her maids to call from the highest places in the town.” Weakness is designated by both of these shortcomings in the first preachers; and this to shame the strong, i.e., the powerful of this world: “The haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the pride of men shall be brought low” (Isaiah 2:17).

28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,
Thirdly, he mentions a defect splendor of rank, which is implied in the word “nobility.” Opposed to these he says: and despised in the world, i.e., men looked down upon by the world: “We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those round about us” (Psalms 79:4), God has chosen for the office of preaching.  Opposed to [the grand opinion men have of the nobility] he says: and things that are not, i.e., men who seem to be nothing in the world: “The strength of whose hands was to me as nothing, and they were thought unworthy of life itself” [Job 30:2], has God chosen for the office of preaching. This He did to bring to naught things that are, i.e., those who seem to be something in this world: “The Lord of hosts had purposed it, to defile the pride of all glory, to dishonor all the honored of the earth” (Isaiah 23:9).

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
Then he reveals the cause of all this, saying: He has not chosen the great but the lowly, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God, i.e., that no one may glory in his own worldly greatness as compared with the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in the wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, and let not the rich man glory in his riches” (Jeremiah 9:23). For inasmuch as God did not subject the world to His faith by employing the great ones of the world but the lowly ones, man cannot boast that the world was saved by employing worldly greatness. However, since it might appear that worldly greatness did not originate from God, if He never employed it for His purposes, God employed a few and later a great number of the worldly great for the office of preaching. Hence a Gloss says that if the faithful fisherman had not come first, the humble orator could not have come later. Furthermore, it pertains to God’s glory to draw the great of the world by means of the lowly.

30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption;
Then when he says, He is the source, he prevents the preachers of the faith, since they were not the worldly great but the lowly, from being regarded as contemptible, by showing how God supplied for their defects. In regard to this he does three things.
First, he indicates who deserves the honor for the world’s salvation, which was procured by the ministry of preaching. He says: You have been called not by the great of this world but by the lowly; consequently, your conversion should not be attributed to men but to God. In other words, He is the source of your life, i.e., by God’s power are you called in Christ Jesus, i.e., joined to Him by grace: “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10).
[Secondly,] he shows how God supplies for the deficiencies of his preachers by means of Christ:
first, as to their lack of wisdom when he says: whom, namely, Christ, God made for us, who preach the faith, and by us unto all the faithful, our wisdom, because by adhering to Him Who is the wisdom of God and by partaking of Him through grace, we have been made wise; and this is our God, Who gave Christ to us and few us to Him, as it says in John (6:44): “No man can come to me, except the Father who has sent me draw him”; “This is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of nations” (Deuteronomy 4:6).
Secondly, as to their lack of power he says: our righteousness, which is called a breastplate because of its strength: “He will put on righteousness as a breastplate” (Wisdom 5:19). Now Christ is said to have been made righteousness for us, inasmuch as we are made righteous by faith, as it says in Romans (3:22): “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”
Thirdly, as to their lack of nobility he says: and sanctification and redemption, for we are sanctified by Christ, inasmuch as it is through Him that we are joined to God, in Whom true nobility is found, as it says in I Samuel (2:30): “Those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” Hence it says in Hebrews (13:12): “Jesus suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.” But He has been made our redemption, inasmuch as we have been redeemed by Him from the slavery of sin, in which true baseness consists; hence it says in Psalms 31 (v.6): “Thou hast redeemed me O Lord, faithful God.”

31 therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”
Thirdly, he assigns the cause of the above when he says: Therefore, as it is written, Let him that boasts, boast of the Lord (cf. Jeremiah 9:24), where our version has: “Let him that glories, glory in this that he understands and knows me.” For he is saying: If man’s salvation does not spring from any human greatness but solely from God’s power, the glory belongs not to man but to God, as it says in Psalms 115 (v. 1); “Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory”; “To him that gives me wisdom will I give glory” (Sirach 51:23).

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pope John Paul II

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
January 30, 2011

TO THE HOLY LAND (MARCH 20-26, 2000)

Israel – Korazim, Mount of the Beatitudes
Friday, 24 March 2000

2. The first to hear the Beatitudes of Jesus bore in their hearts the memory of another mountain – Mount Sinai. Just a month ago, I had the grace of going there, where God spoke to Moses and gave the Law, “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18) on the tablets of stone. These two mountains – Sinai and the Mount of the Beatitudes – offer us the roadmap of our Christian life and a summary of our responsibilities to God and neighbor. The Law and the Beatitudes together mark the path of the following of Christ and the royal road to spiritual maturity and freedom.

The Ten Commandments of Sinai may seem negative: “You will have no false gods before me; . . . do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness...” (Exodus 20:3, 13-16). But in fact they are supremely positive. Moving beyond the evil they name, they point the way to the law of love which is the first and greatest of the commandments: “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. . . You will love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39). Jesus himself says that he came not to abolish but to fulfill the Law (confer Matthew 5:17). His message is new but it does not destroy what went before; it leads what went before to its fullest potential. Jesus teaches that the way of love brings the Law to fulfillment (confer Galatians 5:14). And he taught this enormously important truth on this hill here in Galilee.

3. “Blessed are you!”, he says, “all you who are poor in spirit, gentle and merciful, you who mourn, who care for what is right, who are pure in heart, who make peace, you who are persecuted! Blessed are you!” But the words of Jesus may seem strange. It is strange that Jesus exalts those whom the world generally regards as weak. He says to them, “Blessed are you who seem to be losers, because you are the true winners: the kingdom of heaven is yours!” Spoken by him who is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29), these words present a challenge which demands a deep and abiding metanoia of the spirit, a great change of heart.

You young people will understand why this change of heart is necessary! Because you are aware of another voice within you and all around you, a contradictory voice. It is a voice which says, “Blessed are the proud and violent, those who prosper at any cost, who are unscrupulous, pitiless, devious, who make war not peace, and persecute those who stand in their way”. And this voice seems to make sense in a world where the violent often triumph and the devious seem to succeed. “Yes”, says the voice of evil, “they are the ones who win. Happy are they!”

4. Jesus offers a very different message. Not far from this very place Jesus called his first disciples, as he calls you now. His call has always demanded a choice between the two voices competing for your hearts even now on this hill, the choice between good and evil, between life and death. Which voice will the young people of the twenty-first century choose to follow? To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what he says, no matter how strange it may seem, and choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem.

In the end, Jesus does not merely speak the Beatitudes. He lives the Beatitudes. He is the Beatitudes. Looking at him you will see what it means to be poor in spirit, gentle and merciful, to mourn, to care for what is right, to be pure in heart, to make peace, to be persecuted. This is why he has the right to say, “Come, follow me!” He does not say simply, “Do what I say”. He says, “Come, follow me!”

You hear his voice on this hill, and you believe what he says. But like the first disciples at the Sea of Galilee, you must leave your boats and nets behind, and that is never easy – especially when you face an uncertain future and are tempted to lose faith in your Christian heritage. To be good Christians may seem beyond your strength in today’s world. But Jesus does not stand by and leave you alone to face the challenge. He is always with you to transform your weakness into strength. Trust him when he says: “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)!

5. The disciples spent time with the Lord. They came to know and love him deeply. They discovered the meaning of what the Apostle Peter once said to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). They discovered that the words of eternal life are the words of Sinai and the words of the Beatitudes. And this is the message which they spread everywhere.

At the moment of his Ascension Jesus gave his disciples a mission and this reassurance: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . and behold I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). For two thousand years Christ’s followers have carried out this mission. Now, at the dawn of the Third Millennium, it is your turn. It is your turn to go out into the world to preach the message of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. When God speaks, he speaks of things which have the greatest importance for each person, for the people of the twenty-first century no less than those of the first century. The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes speak of truth and goodness, of grace and freedom: of all that is necessary to enter into Christ’s Kingdom. Now it is your turn to be courageous apostles of that Kingdom!

Young people of the Holy Land, Young people of the world: answer the Lord with a heart that is willing and open! Willing and open, like the heart of the greatest daughter of Galilee, Mary, the Mother of Jesus. How did she respond? She said: “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

O Lord Jesus Christ, in this place that you knew and loved so well, listen to these generous young hearts! Continue to teach these young people the truth of the Commandments and the Beatitudes! Make them joyful witnesses to your truth and convinced apostles of your Kingdom! Be with them always, especially when following you and the Gospel becomes difficult and demanding! You will be their strength; you will be their victory!

O Lord Jesus, you have made these young people your friends: keep them for ever close to you! Amen.

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Office of Readings

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
January 30, 2011

Office of Readings
From a letter to the Church of Smyrna
by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

Christ has called us to his kingdom and glory

From Ignatius, known as Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, his beloved, at Smyrna in Asia, wishing you all joy in an immaculate spirit and the Word of God. By his mercy you have won every gift and lack none, filled as you are with faith and love, beloved of God and fruitful in sanctity.

I celebrate the glory of Jesus Christ as God, because he is responsible for your wisdom, well aware as I am of the perfection of your unshakeable faith. You are like men who have been nailed body and soul to the cross of Jesus Christ, confirmed in love by his blood.

In regard to the Lord, you firmly believe that he was of the race of David according to the flesh, but God’s son by the will and power of God; truly born of the Virgin and baptised by John, that all justice might be fulfilled; truly nailed to a cross in the flesh for our sake under Pontius Pilate and the Tetrarch Herod, and of his most blessed passion we are the fruit. And thus, by his resurrection he raised up a standard over his saints and faithful ones for all time (both Jews and Gentiles alike) in the one body of his Church. For he endured all this for us, for our salvation; and he really suffered, and just as truly rose from the dead.

As for myself, I am convinced that he was united with his body even after the resurrection. When he visited Peter and his companions, he said to them: Take hold of me, touch me and see that I am not a spirit without a body. Immediately they touched him and believed, clutching at his body and his very spirit. And for this reason they despised death and conquered it. In addition, after his resurrection, the Lord ate and drank with them like a real human being, even though in spirit he was united with his Father.

And so I am giving you serious instruction on these things, dearly beloved, even though I am aware that you believe them to be so.

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Reflection

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 8:23─9:3  ─  1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17  ─ Matthew 4:12-23
January 23, 2011

We’ve heard a concrete example of holiness in today’s Gospel passage:  “As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew…; they were fishermen.  Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  At once they left their nets and followed him.”  In this account of Jesus calling his first two apostles, we hear three concrete, specific ways for each and every Christian to become holy:  whether he or she is still discerning what his or her vocation is, or whether he or she is in the midst of living out his or her vocation, and is doing their darndest every day to discern how to live it out.

The first dimension of holiness is to abandon the self-made man.  The world today encourages everyone, young and old alike, “to be your own person”, and to answer for yourself the question, “What do you want to do with your life?”  Peter and Andrew had followed the way of the world, and were successful fishermen.  They didn’t just fish for fun:  this was their livelihood.  But they gave it all up to follow Jesus.

The second dimension of holiness is to follow the Word made man.  Jesus Christ is “the Word made man”, and to grow in holiness we have to follow Him no matter where He leads us:  even if He leads us to the Cross.  When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, they left their nets and followed Himat once:  not with hesitation, not with doubt or fear, but at once.  Of course we know that later, when push came to shove, Peter three times denied knowing Jesus.  But later yet, Peter went on to repent of his unwillingness to follow Jesus to the Cross, and became the first leader of the Church on earth, after Jesus’ Ascension.

The third dimension of holiness is to walk with a brother (or sister) in Christ.  It’s not an accident, or a coincidence, that Jesus called these first four apostles to journey with him two-by-two.  Likewise, the first time Jesus sent his apostles out, he sent them out to minister two-by-two.  Even in the vocations of Holy Orders or the consecrated life as a nun or monk, a Christian never walks alone.  Sometimes parents can discourage one of their children from a vocation to the priesthood or religious life because they imagine their child would experience unbearable loneliness without being married.  Now, no one who is honest and realistic would deny that the vow of celibacy makes demands of a person, but sometimes I wonder if it’s forgotten that every vocation makes great demands of a Christian who truly listens and follows Jesus.

For example, a married couple who lives by the immense demands called for by Natural Family Planning—rather than by the immense self-gratification afforded by the sin of artificial contraception—know just as keenly as the priest or religious that the two words “sacrifice” and “sexuality” and not in conflict.  In following Jesus Christ, the words “sacrifice” and “sexuality” complement each other, and fulfill each other, and lead a Christian down the path of holiness.

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Gospel Reading

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
January 23, 2011

Matthew 4:12-23

Sunday’s Gospel passage, from early in Matthew’s account of the Gospel, describes the beginning of Jesus’ preaching ministry.  Yet Matthew only tells us one sentence of Jesus’ preaching:  “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  Surely Jesus didn’t simply repeat this single phrase over and over.  More likely, Matthew chose this sentence from among all of Jesus’ preaching as representative of His message:  “Repent!”  Why?  “Because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand….”

It’s not a coincidence that immediately after telling us about the start of Jesus’ preaching, Matthew chooses to relate Jesus’ calling of the first four apostles.  Here, also, we are told only one sentence that Jesus spoke in the context of calling the first third of his “apostolic college”.  In the words that Matthew tells us that Jesus spoke here—“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”—we readily note the pun in the calling that Jesus issues:  Matthew points out that Simon and Andrew were fishermen, and then Jesus calls them to be fishers of men.  The evangelist—inspired by the Holy Spirit—is making a point about the Christian vocation.  Jesus will call us to Himself, and away from what we know.  Yet Jesus will take what He know and can build even on secular talents or skills to advance His divine and holy Will.

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Second Reading

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
January 23, 2011

1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17

Through the end of February, the Church will continue to take its Second Reading for Sunday Mass from 1 Corinthians.  This Sunday’s passage, taken from the first chapter of the letter, finds Saint Paul delving right in to the problems in the Church at Corinth.  The problem Paul focuses on in this passage is the community’s division, as opposed to the unity of the Church that comes from Christ.

Division in the Church arises when members of the Body of Christ separate themselves from the divine will of Christ.  In other words, when a single member does not what Christ wills for him, he is living his own life, instead of allowing Christ to live His life through him.

Unity in the Church arises when each member of the Body of Christ unites himself to the will of Christ.  This will is two-fold.  Take the example of yourself, when you jog.  Your will unfolds on two levels:  first, you have a goal that all the members of your body are contributing towards:  running forward.  No single member of the body accomplishes this, but only all of them working together.  Second, your will instructs each part of your body to carry out a specific function at any given point in time.  At a given moment, your right leg may be stretching forward and downwards so that your right foot can plant itself on the ground; at the same time, your left leg is stretching back behind the rest of your body.  Meanwhile, your lungs are either inhaling or exhaling, and your arms are moving in syncopation with your legs to impel your body forwards.  All of these individual acts of willing take place simultaneously, and are united in the single will of running forward.

Each member of Christ’s Body shares in the single will of Christ for His Body as a whole.  But Christ gives each member of His Mystical Body a unique vocation within His Body, for the sake of the whole Body.  Diversity of vocations does not work against the single vocation of Christ and His Church:  the single will for which He sacrificed His Body and Blood, soul and divinity on the Cross:  “Ut unum sint” (“…that they may be one…” [John 17:22]).

The parish I serve

<b>The parish I serve</b>
St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Colwich, Kansas (Diocese of Wichita)