3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (SUNDAY OF THE WORD OF GOD) YEAR A ON JANUARY 26, 2020 (R. 1: Isaiah 8: 23- 9: 3; Psalm 27: 1, 4, 13- 14; R. 2: 1 Corinthians 1: 10- 13, 17; Gospel: Matthew 4: 12- 23)
One Monday morning, a young lady said to her pastor, “Father, I am here to thank you for the prayer you said at Mass yesterday for people who are hearing impaired. Will you please say a prayer next Sunday for those who must live with those folks?” The lady went on to explain that her 90-year-old grandmother refuses to wear her hearing aid because she thinks it makes her look old, and as a result of that, she complains that she is always left out of family conversations.
Are we not sometimes like this grandma? Do we not sometimes complain that God has left us out of His conversations? Do we not complain that we do not know what the will of God is in the different situations we find ourselves? But the truth is that God wants us to be part of His conversations; He wants us to know His will in whatever situation we find ourselves, and so He has given us a special hearing aid that can help to amplify and clarify what God is saying to us at every moment of our lives. This hearing aid is called the Bible or the Sacred Scripture. But like the 90-year-old grandma, we leave the Bible covered with dust on our shelves; we don’t pick it up because we feel it is old school and out of fashion.
Mindful of this attitude, Pope Francis has declared today the Sunday to pick up our hearing aid, the Bible. On September 30th, 2019, on the Memorial of St. Jerome, in his Apostolic Letter, Aperuit illis, Pope Francis declared the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time the “Sunday of the Word of God.” This celebration emphasizes the centrality of the Bible in the Christian life. The title of this apostolic letter, Aperuit illis, comes from the first two words of the Latin text of the Apostolic Letter, which means, “He opened to them.” This title refers to what happened on the road to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection when Cleopas and another disciple were downcast and sharing their disappointment about the passion and death of Jesus. Suddenly a stranger joined them and questioned them about their conversation. Unknown to them that the stranger was Jesus, they explained their disappointment to him. Jesus then “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45); Jesus handed their hearing aid to them. The Scripture was their hearing aid. The events that surrounded the passion of Jesus made no sense to them, they felt God left them out of the conversation, but when Jesus made them see the passion and death of Jesus through the lens of the scripture, it gave it a new meaning.
Before this time, to prepare Jesus and his apostles for the scandal of the cross, he climbed the mountain with Peter, James, and John. There Moses and Elijah appeared to him, and God spoke and identified Jesus as his beloved Son. The presence of Moses and Elijah stood for the Old Testament, made up of the Law and the Prophets. At the Transfiguration, with the appearance of Moses and Elijah, God was saying to Jesus and the apostles, to pick up their hearing aid, the Scripture, and see that God is speaking in all that Jesus is experiencing.
The Church gives us many opportunities to read the bible. The first half of every Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, is devoted to the reading and explanation of the Bible. The Second half, the Liturgy of the Eucharist is the living out, or the putting into practice of what is in the Bible. All the sacraments are rooted in the Bible. Different parishes have different programs of Bible studies. We are challenged to return to the great tradition of taking turns to read the bible together at home. We can read from page to page, or the readings at Mass for the day, or randomly pick passages. In all of them, God speaks to us.
Providentially, this week is observed in the United States in most parishes as Catholic Schools Week. This celebration allows us to recognize the importance, the values, and the contributions of Catholic education to the Church and the world. At this point, I wish to thank parents, teachers, sponsors, and all those who contribute positively to this course. Catholic education trains our children to have their hearing aid to recognize the voice of God amid all the noise in the world.
Pope Francis also notes that it is more than a temporal coincidence that this celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God is falling within the period “of the year when we are encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity.” The Bible brings us all together. This week challenges us to reflect on the will of God for us to be one in God, through Jesus Christ and in union with the Holy Spirit.
In the second reading, Paul frowned against the division in the Church in Corinth. Corinth was a port city like San Diego, it had its share of wealth, and there were all kinds of people. The Church was dealing with the challenges of this diversity. Christians divided based on allegiance to Paul, Apollos, or Cephas. Paul then wrote to call them back to their common root in Christ. Are we free of this guilt of the Church in Corinth? With the different Christian denominations springing up every passing hour, antagonizing one another, can we say we are one in Christ? Apart from interdenominational rivalries, we also have our challenges as the One Church, where some prayer groups claim superiority over others. Stepping outside the Church, it is no longer enough to be a Yankees fan; you also need to hate the Red Sox. It is not enough to be an Arsenal fan; you must prove it by hating Chelsea. Did I hear you say you are a Democrat? Ok, that means you hate the Republicans. Wait a minute; you can’t be a true Republican until you hate the democrats. It has become so difficult to see any American these days, all you see are Republicans or Democrats.
The light Isaiah prophesied about in the first reading has found fulfillment in Jesus Christ in the Gospel passage. The Bible calls us to unity. Let us build strength from our diversity. Let us embrace and celebrate the uniqueness each person brings to the table. We may look different, and talk different, but if we put on our hearing aid, the Bible, we will understand that there is only one race, the human race. May the light of Christ dispel all forces of darkness around us, and help us to make the best of our differences until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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