As we enter the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are reminded that when "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom" [Mt. 4:23] "the people saw a great light." [Is. 9:2]
Approximately 750 years before the birth of our Lord Jesus, the prophet Isaiah foretold that in "Galilee of the nations, the people will see a great light." [Is. 9:1] The people who heard the prophecy in those days perceived it to mean that the ideal Davidic king would come to Galilee, opening a new era of peace and justice.
Who would be the ideal Davidic king? In two chapters prior to today's reading in the Book of Isaiah, it is stated, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." [Is. 7:14] Speaking of the birth of Jesus as the Messiah, this same verse is echoed in the Gospel of Matthew. "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." [Mt. 1:23] Consequently, we can logically conclude that the promised ideal Davidic King that Isaiah referred to was our Lord Jesus.
Continuing with today's First Reading, [Is. 9:1-4] it was said, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined." [Is. 9:2] Similar words are found in the Gospel of John where it is stated, "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him." [Jn. 1:6- 11]
Speaking to His followers, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." [Jn. 8:12]
In the First Letter of John, we find a summary of the mission of the Lord Jesus as the Light of the world. "This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." [1 Jn. 1:5-7]
"Whoever says, 'I am in the Light,' while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the Light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling." [1 Jn. 2:9-10]
Today's Second Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians [1 Cor. 1:10-13, 17-18] reveals to us that walking in the Light means to be united in Christ. In this particular letter, St. Paul appealed to the Corinthians to be in agreement with each other, that there be no divisions among them. In the Catholic faith community where Christ is present, there should be perfect harmony among the believers because of their fellowship and unity with Christ.
As we have heard earlier, Chloe's people had reported to Paul that there "were quarrels among the brothers and sisters" [1 Cor. 1:11] in Corinth. This resulted from other missionaries and Jewish Christians coming to Corinth after Paul had left. Representing different movements, they agitated the Church. Now, instead of belonging to Christ, some believers claimed to belong to Paul, some to Apollos (the Alexandrian Jew converted to Christ at Ephesus by Aquila and Priscilla, [Acts 18;24-28] and others to Cephas. As you can imagine, the quarrels were leading to recrimination and sharp language.
It is no different today. There are still some who create division in the Church. There are some who claim that "there are Catholics and there are Catholics," they being the true Catholics because of their beliefs. Some believe that they no longer need Jesus Christ as their Saviour. As followers of the "God the Father" movement, they believe that they only have to call the word "Father" once in their lifetime and they will be saved. God the Father has become their Saviour. They no longer need the Sacraments of the Church!
There are others who believe that "they will be the new apostles for the renewal of the whole Church." [To The Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons, # 158] Unless one belongs to a Cenacle, he is a lost soul.
There are those who continue to organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje in complete disobedience to the local Bishop and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of faith, both having stated that no pilgrimages should be organizes to Medjugorje where unproven claims of apparitions have been made. Why do they continue to disobey the Church authorities? Because it is profitable for them to organize pilgrimages. It is profitable for them to sell books. It is profitable for them to sell religious objects.
Yesteryears, the believers claimed to belong to Paul, to Apollos, to Cephas, etc... Today, they claim to belong to John Leary, Sadie Jaramillo, Sandra Cummings, Vassula Ryden, Verinoca Lueken, etc... As sad as it is to say, when applicable, these believers ignore the proclamation of local Bishops who have condemned certain seers and their alleged apparition or locutions. These faithful have refused to believe, stating that the Bishops are in error because only the Pope is infallible. They will only believe when the Pope speaks on the subject.
As you can appreciate, there continues to be division in the Catholic Church. St. Paul said, "I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose." [1 Cor. 1:10]
This is a serious appeal for unity based on the Christian profession of faith in the Lord Jesus. To be of the same mind and the same purpose, we must be in perfect agreement. No "if's" and "but's." We must be united in our thinking. We must fix our eyes on Christ. And we must accept the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies us through the Church Sacraments for the glory of the Heavenly Father. These are sound Catholic teachings that have been, are today, and shall be until the end of time. Such Divine teachings surpass the trends that come and go, the whims of those who are in the darkness.
Paul asked, "Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" [1 Cor. 1:13] I ask, "Was John Leary, Sadie Jaramillo, Sandra Cummings, Vassula Ryden, Verinoca Lueken or even Father Gobbi crucified for you? Were you baptized in their names or in the Most Holy Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?"
My brothers and sisters in Christ, there is only one Saviour, Jesus Christ who died on the cross for each and everyone of us. Through faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism, we were incorporated into the one Body of Christ, not this one's movement or that one's movement. There is one Body of Catholics, not two. Those who believe that there are Catholics and then there are Catholics, are so full of pride that they have been blinded by their sin. First came pride which was followed by disobedience. Then came a hardening of the heart so that no truth could any longer be heard. Finally, criticizing the local Bishops or Church authorities became the common practice. I ask you, "Is this of God?" "Is this the Light of Christ?" "Is this the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit?"
As St. Paul said, "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." [1 Cor. 1:18] On this subject, St. Thomas Aquinas commented that men are accustomed to regard as foolishness whatever surpasses their understanding. Is this what is happening when one prefers sensations versus hearing the Word of God that is being preached? The grace of God does not flow through sensations. But it does flow through the preaching of the Holy Scriptures.
Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God is of utmost importance. For how can someone believe in Jesus if they have never heard of Him? And how can they hear if no one proclaims Him? [Rom. 10:14-5]
Today's Gospel Reading [Mt. 4:12-23] made us realize that what was prophesied by Isaiah was fulfilled through Jesus. After John the Baptist had been imprisoned by Herod Antipas, as prophesied, Jesus withdrew "to Galilee" [Is. 9:1; Mt. 4:12] and began His own proclamation.
Why did Jesus make His home in the larger city of Capernaum? Most likely it is because in the days of the New Testament, the western shore of the sea was occupied by many small but prosperous cities and towns. This provided Jesus with the opportunity of ministering to a large number of souls within a reasonable walking distance.
Many came to hear the message of Jesus, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." [Mt. 4:17] They followed Jesus wherever He went. When Jesus preached, they sat and listened carefully to every word that He said. By the Word of God, they were lifted out of the shadow of death, the Light of God having dawned on them.
Some may have noticed that in the Gospel of Matthew, it is stated that Jesus proclaimed the "Kingdom of Heaven." In the Gospel of Mark, it is stated that Jesus proclaimed the "Kingdom of God." Why the difference? The reason for this is because when Jewish people spoke, they avoided using the Name of God or any Divine titles. At the same time, in both Gospels, the proper translation of the word "kingdom" would yield the word "reign." Both, the "reign of God" or the "reign of Heaven" render the same message.
Today's Gospel Reading concluded by telling us that Jesus recruited Simon, who is called Peter, his brother Andrew, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. When each and everyone of them were called, they immediately left their fishing nets, and followed Jesus. They even left their families to become disciples of Christ.
From then on, "Jesus travelled throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people." [Mt. 4:23] Equally today, the Word of God, the promoting of the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven, heals all kinds of ills. The Word of God transforms the hearts so victims may forgive their transgressors, those who have physically abused them, those who have sexually abused them and those who have psychologically abuse them.
When we received the Sacrament of Confirmation, we were sent forward to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and to defend the Catholic faith. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Lord Jesus to give us the strength and perseverance to answer His calling so we may faithfully serve the Lord according to His Divine Will.