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January 22, 2017

A reflection for the 3rd Sunday, Ordinary time, year A. The readings are Isaiah 8:23–9:3, Psalm 27, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17 and Matthew 4:12-23.

“Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus today tells us to repent – we think that repent has to do with asking for forgiveness, but repent is really a word that means change or reform; turn your life around. Last week I reminded you of five things you should be doing every day so that your heart is ready to receive Jesus; to recognize him: Prayer, Scripture, Sacraments, Parish Community and Service/Charity. How’s that been going this week? So while we’re focusing on reforming our lives and changing things in our lives, I’d like to show you what I do.

Let’s pick one of these five: Scripture, and I’ll show how I read, prayed with and studied Scripture this week. If I was able to do it, anyone reading this can do it too.
Do you have a Missal at home? You should get one. Not so much so that you can follow the readings at Mass, but so that you can read the readings before you get to Mass on Sunday. If you don’t have a Missal, it’s really easy to get one, or to find the Sunday readings online. Just go online and type “Catholic Sunday readings” and you’ll get a whole bunch of websites that have the Sunday readings. (I tend to use the US Bishops site; you just have to be careful for those few Sundays when the readings are different in Canada than in the U.S.) You can download apps (Laudate is a popular one; also on Google Play. If you’re an iPhone user, try iBreviary. ) that will give you the Sunday readings or even send you daily readings and reflections to your phone. Daily readings are good, but let’s focus on the Sunday readings for now. Once you know what the readings are, go get a Bible and read them from the Bible so that you can read them in context; you can see what happened right before and what happened afterwards. You can also read all the verses that sometimes get left out when we read it at Mass. [for example, in today’s reading from 1 Corinthians, you may notice that verses 14-16 are left out. In them, Paul goes on about the people he baptised and not baptised.] If you don’t have a bible, go to – you can read all the bibles that have every been published in any language there.

So there are always three readings, as well as a Psalm. Today we have Isaiah, 1 Corinthians and Matthew. The Psalm is Psalm 27. So, this week you could have read Isaiah on Monday, Corinthians on Tuesday and Matthew on Wednesday. Then you start again, Isaiah on Thursday, Corinthians on Friday and Matthew on Saturday. Then on Sunday you hear all three of them and you hear a homily about an aspect of these readings. I always try to find some reflection or commentary on the readings. This is also really easy to find online. But even without the commentary, at least reading them twice in the week means that you are not hearing them for the first time on Sunday and you’ll begin to get some insights.

Had you read the readings twice each, especially if you did so in the context of your prayer, you would have noticed a few things. For example Matthew quotes Isaiah. The more you read Matthew the more you’ll realize that he does this all the time. When I first noticed this, I looked it up. The reason is because Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience. He wants to show them that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Jewish prophecies about the Messiah. He wants to show them that the Jewish Scriptures actually point to Jesus Christ. So quoting Jewish Scriptures is showing proof.

Today Matthew shows that Isaiah was talking about Jesus. That’s why he doesn’t just say that Jesus went to live in Capernaum. He says that he went to live in “Capernaum, a town that is in the land of Naphtali and Zebulun”.

Now, if you were me, at this point, you’d be like “Zebu-who? Naphta-what?” So I look it up. Turns out that the when Moses arrived in the Promised Land, the land was divided among the twelve tribes of Israel. So there are twelve divisions. Each tribe is named after one of the sons of Jacob. Can anyone name the 12 sons of Jacob? It’s all online: Joseph, Benjamin, Reuben, Levi, Asher, Simeon, Isachaar, Dan, Gad, Judah (I’m sure you’ve heard of that one) and yes, Zebulun and Naphtali. If you love maps, you can Google a map that shows you where each of these regions were. [You won’t find a region for Levi, because the tribe of Levi, the Levites, were the priests, so they didn’t get a piece of land. You also won’t find a region called Joseph, because his was split among his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. I’m sure you’ve also heard those “The Land of Ephraim and Manasseh,” right?]

So, the province of Galilee, where Nazareth and Capernaum are is in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. Matthew makes a point of putting that in to show that Isaiah was talking about Jesus. That HE is the light that these people who walked in darkness will see.

If we just stick with the Gospel, you may notice a few other things. I noticed that Matthew uses the word “brother” four times. He says that Jesus saw “two brothers, Simon and his brother Andrew” and then he says he saw “two other brothers, James and his brother John”. Why not just say he saw “two brothers, James and John”? Maybe there’s something important about the fact that they are brothers? I don’t know, but maybe there’s something there.

If you read any commentaries on this Gospel, I’m sure that they would focus on the word repent and Jesus calling us to repent, turn around, reform our lives, change our lives. Are we being asked to leave our jobs and homes and families? It really seems that Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John did exactly that. Maybe, but I don’t think so. We know from other Gospel stories that they probably continued fishing and I doubt that they completely left their families – that would not have been very cool in those days. We are not being asked to change where we live or where we work. We are being asked to change how we live. These five suggestions from last week are suggestions so you can begin making a change, little by little.

One reflection I read on this Gospel focused on the word “net.” “They left their nets.” (Matthew doesn’t say that they left their jobs, but their nets.) Does that mean they left their jobs? I don’t think so. What are these nets? What are the things that entrap us? That weigh us down? What are those webs, those nets of crap in our lives that hold us back? That’s what we have to leave behind. [Another example from 1 Corinthians is the reason why Paul is writing to them: “there are divisions among you.” There were different factions and loyalties. Maybe that is something that entangles us. It’s certainly something that keeps us in darkness and prevents us from seeing the Light.]

What entraps you? What weighs you down? What holds you back? Jesus Christ is the light that shines in the darkness. He came to set us free. He is our Light and our Salvation. We are a people who walked in darkness, but we have been shown a great light. Jesus Christ has come to break the yoke, to smash the rod of the oppressor that holds us down. Let’s reform our lives, little by little, as we go and follow Him, daily with Prayer, Scripture, Sacraments, our Parish Community and Works of Charity, because the Kingdom of God is at hand.

From → English, Reflections

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