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Third Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: Isa 9:1-3; 1 Cor 1:1, 10-13, 17; Mt 4:12-23.
1/ Reading I: RSV Isaiah 9:1 But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. 3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
2/ Reading II: RSV 1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 10 I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 4:12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23 And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.
I. THEME: Let God’s light of truth shine in our life.
There are a big difference between the learned and the unlearned, those who walk in light and those who sit in darkness. Those who walk in God’s light know where they head to; they are always firm, live a peaceful life and have a positive attitude in all aspects of life. In opposition, those who sit in darkness don’t know what they live their life for, are always fearful, anxious, and have a negative attitude about life.
The difference is not simply about light and darkness, but also about eternal life and death. To be liberated from darkness, people must welcome God’s light of truth; they need to believe in Christ and to do what he teaches them.
Today readings center on the theme how God has done all possible ways to liberate people from the darkness of sin by giving them the true light which is Christ. He also chose and trained his companions so that they might co-operate with him in the mission of bringing salvation to all people. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah foresaw and announced the day when people of all places shall be enlighten by God’s light, especially the two regions of the Gentiles, Zebulun and Naphthali. In the second reading, St. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they must get rid of all inside darkness and always live in light. If they still regret material gains and live according to worldly factious way, they don’t live according to God’s light of truth and are destroying their and the communal life. In the Gospel, Jesus chose the left side of Galilee Lake, the regions of Zebulun and Naphthali which the prophet Isaiah announced in the first reading, to start his public ministry. He also called his first four disciples and they quickly responded by leaving behind all things to follow him so they might be trained and participated in his mission to bring the light of salvation to all nations.
1/ Reading I: The difference between light and darkness
Zebulun and Naphthali were two tribes of Israel and located in the left side of the Galilee Lake. When the tribe of Dan couldn’t sustain the pressure of Syria, it moved southward and lied between the boundary of the northern and the southern kingdoms; then Zebulun and Naphthali became the boundary of Assyria and Israel. Lying in the frontier, they were always threatened by wars and death; many big wars happened in this area. In the time of Isaiah, the northern kingdom, included these two tribes, was felt on the Assyrian hands. They were quickly influenced by their darkness of sins and became the Gentile regions. The prophet Isaiah was enlightened by God to foresee the day when these two regions shall be shone by the Messiah’s light. Today passage wants to emphasize on the contrast between the results of light and darkness.
1.1/ Light shall liberate people: When God’s light shines on this darken area, people shall recognize all darkness which surround them, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.”
The clear result of God’s light is joy. The light brings joy to all who were shone by light. The prophet used two images which are familiar with people of this region, the harvest and the battle’s victory. Both images want to highlight the great gain which people shall have by receiving God’s light. Isaiah wrote, “Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.”
1.2/ Darkness confines people as slaves: People who live in these two regions must certainly suffer greatly. About religious aspect, since they live far away from Jerusalem temple, they are easily affected by Assyrian religions. About the political aspect, they are controlled by the empires, seized as slaves, and constantly threatened by wars. All the great wars of Jewish history happened in this area.
The prophet Isaiah foresaw the day when God shall liberate them from all political powers, “For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire” (Isa 9:4-5).
2/ Reading II: To know Christ is to live according to what he teaches.
Corinth was a very busy port of Greek. Though people’s life are easy economy-wise; but threatened by many sins of people from all over the world. The Corinthians were easily open their heart to welcome all good things from foreigners, but seldom discarded away bad things.
This is the reason why St. Paul was successful in bringing Christ’s light for them, but he met many difficulties in regulating the Corinthian community. One can see these difficulties by reading his two Letters to the Corinthians.
St. Paul reminded the Corinthian faithful it isn’t by baptism only that they become good Christians, but also by terminating their sins and by practicing what Christ teaches them. In today passage, he emphasized on the charity and the unity of the community.
2.1/ Unity is achieved by living according to Christ’s teaching: After the greeting in the first part of the Letter, he came directly to their problem, “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
According to him, the basis of the Christian life is charity, and all Christians must try all ways to develop this virtue (cf. 1 Cor 13). The community can’t be united if there is no charity. Jesus himself also teaches his disciples, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
2.2/ Faction or taking sides is the sign that Christians are still in darkness and slaves for sins: St. Paul gave them the reason that caused dissensions in their community, “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
What Paul wanted them to pay attention to is Christ’s love, expressed by his death on the cross, not to look for power, fame or individual gains so that they shall divide Christ’s body in many parts.
Individual gain is often the main but hidden reason, which urges people to divide into group, to oppose the truth and the leaders who want them to imitate Christ. St. Paul advised them to correct this bad habit on time; if not, they shall be dispersed and gradually deny Christ, the cause of happiness for their life.
3/ Gospel: People must have a determined attitude to follow Christ, the true light.
3.1/ Christ fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: Matthew indicated this fulfillment as following, “Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.””
One can say that most of Jesus’ life, his miracles and early mission were in these two regions, such as: Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum… Most of Jesus’ apostles were also coming from these regions. Bethsaida, near Capernaum, is the native place of Jesus’ first four disciples.
3.2/ Jesus called his first four disciples to follow him.
(1) He orients them to a greater mission which is to bring God’s truth and salvation to people: When one hears Matthew’s report of Jesus’ calling of his first four apostles, one might question that how could these first four apostles respond to Jesus’ call with such determined and quick attitude? All four of them certainly had opportunities to hear Jesus’ preaching in the Capernaum synagogue and around the Galilee Lake, to witness his miracles and to hear people talking about Jesus, etc. All these things caused them to think over many nights so that today, when he officially invited them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men;” they could leave all their things and followed him.”
(2) The disciples’ quickly and resolutely response: However, their determined attitude causes surprise for us. Quitting their job isn’t easy to do because it is related to earn their living. They might also question that what shall they find their living? Moreover, leaving behind their old father in the boat with torn nets is even more difficult because it is the time for James and John to care for their old father. How could they leave him to follow Christ? Lastly, they might also take a look in themselves and wonder that how can a fisherman like them bring the light of truth to people? They themselves need it before everybody!
They had courage to follow Jesus’ call because they were enlightened to recognize what is the most important thing of their life. They followed Christ because they realized there are more important things in life than their career and care for their old parents. Jesus must have things which can fulfill their souls’ desires. They witnessed people eagerly flocked to Jesus to hear his teaching and to be healed by him. They must be proud to become Jesus’ disciples and their participation in Jesus’ ministry of salvation must be the most desire above all things.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– If there is no light coming from God, we can’t recognize all darkness that are surrounding our life.
– We need not only Christ’s light but also to live according to this light. Open up ourselves so that Christ can shine to all of our darkness.
– We should not fear to lose what we are possessing, but be determined and courageous to follow Christ so that he can renew and lead us to many horizons which we could never think of them.