Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Two readings today refer to the northeast region of ancient Israel: “the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali.” Upon hearing these names, some of us might consult maps and determine exactly where these regions lie. Others might let the unfamiliar names drift by unnoticed. If no maps are handy—but we don’t want to ignore the references completely—consider this: we might not know the latitude and longitude of Zebulun and Naphtali, but God does. We praise God for watching over every inch of land and sea, caring perfectly for each creature on the planet. While Isaiah celebrates the depth of God’s care with “abundant joy and great rejoicing,” Saint Paul begs us to remember how the Lord shows this loving care: through the cross. In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls Peter, James, and John to follow him. We follow too, confident that God accompanies us, wherever we are.
BEAUTY AND TRUTH
Today the poetry of Isaiah washes over us with stunning beauty:
Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness:
for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.
Isaiah’s lines enchant us with their music as well as with their meaning. Haven’t we all felt burdened by gloom and distress? Don’t we all long for an end to darkness? Isaiah promises that God’s majestic strength crushes our anguish, blowing away our troubles on a breeze. These words are lovely, but what do they mean for us really, when our day-to-day struggles are so real? How can it be true that darkness is dispelled, when so many of us suffer terribly?
DAILY DOSES OF LIGHT
Jesus assures us: “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5b). But how, exactly, does God’s light overcome the darkness that we still experience? Saint Paul shows us how: through the cross. Today’s reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians implores Jesus’ followers to get along with one another, to “be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” We believe that two thousand years ago, Jesus saved the world and destroyed darkness; but until Jesus comes again, we must unite as the Body of Christ to continue pushing back the gloom of sin and division. As followers of Jesus, we work against these evils in simple ways. We intentionally attempt genuine conversation with a person we find irritating; we ignore gossip and refuse to talk behind someone’s back; we befriend an awkward or needy individual. These daily doses of light bring hope to our world, which is both redeemed and not yet finished. Jesus wants our help. Like Peter, James, and John in today’s Gospel, we are called by Christ to participate in salvation. Jesus chooses us, calls us, and invites us to accompany him—and imitate him—as we live in, and wait for, the Light of the World.
Today’s Readings: Is 8:23 — 9:3; Ps 27:1, 4, 13–14; 1 Cor 1:10–13, 17; Mt 4:12–23 [12–17]