Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

01-22-2023Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners,
I have made great improvement in recovery. I decided that it was better to offer you a Reflection from a few years past because I am not yet functioning at full capacity. Recovery takes time.

Thanks and God bless, Father Brian.

Pastoral Reflections:

We launch out this Sunday on our Church’s yearlong proclamation and reflection upon on the Gospel according to Matthew is proclaimed to us each Sunday for the thirty-three Sundays in Ordinary Time. This Gospel directly links Jesus to the Old Testament. The narrative of the nativity of Jesus always adds frequently the refrain: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet …” (Matthew 1:22). Thus in today’s Gospel reading, Matthew tells us that Jesus carries out his mission to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy.

In this passage, Jesus is compared to Isaiah’s prophecy of a great light flooding the land of Galilee, that “far way” place of the Gentiles. Recall that in this 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 nets and followed Jesus immediately. With our translation removed by many cultures, languages and centuries, Scripture scholars tell us that the original language of this passage offered a sense of inevitability and urgency in Jesus’ call to these four men and also in their spontaneous, unquestioned response. There clearly was no dilly-dallying. The four fishermen knew deeply that this was their “it.” They immediately abandoned everything to follow Jesus.

Almost all of the people of Israel expected a messiah who would act in clear, specific, recognizable ways, such as bringing about health and healing and freedom from the oppression and anguish. 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 false power of the taskmaster would finally cease.

Finally, a new song could be heard in the land. The proclamation of Jesus was indeed good news. Something was new in the land and also someone was new, and he would 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 we learn about in the Gospel of today, with all this light and salvation, what is off kilter in Corinth in our second reading? Paul has preached the good news to this town a year and half earlier, but now, a few years later, the hearers had forgotten. The freshness had worn off; it was no longer new and exciting. The assembly experienced stresses and strains which threatened to tear it apart. The Corinthians now drew their worth from light reflected from this or that authority figure. The cult of personality had started.

Paul reminds the Corinthians of the primacy of Christ. He emphasizes clearly them, to whom they belong, in whose life they share, to whom they owe their salvation. Paul is very blunt. He reminds them that they all belong to Christ. This is it as far as he is concerned. In the cross of Christ alone they are saved. This is the faith they must live by.

Paul is also reaching across the centuries to us to remember that out faith is in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. We should be careful to know what is truly transitory and fleeting and what is enduring and everlasting.

Fr. Brian