Sunday Scripture Readings

third sunday in

ordinary time,

january 27

Isaiah 8:23 - 9:3; Psalm 27;

1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23 OUR GOOD NEWS: Let us go joyfully to the Light of the World. "First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali . . . " (first reading). The northern portion of Israel inhabited by these two tribes had been conquered by Assyria, a brutal Near Eastern superpower. Nevertheless, rather than evidence of Marduk's power over Yahweh, it was the Lord's own doing ("he degraded") - salutary punishment for Israel's flagrant covenant disloyalty. But the biblical God remains faithful to us who are unfaithful. Isaiah proclaimed his coming to the rescue of this sinful people, using past tense to emphasize certainty of fulfillment. " ... But in the end he has glorified the seaward road." The same sovereign Lord who disciplined his people through pagan armies now determined to raise up a king in David's line, the instrument for rescuing three provinces: "seaward road, land west of the Jordan, the District of the Gentiles." Isaiah employed violent military imagery to describe northern Israel's deliverance from slavery: victorious soldiers "dividing booty" and "smashing slave-driver's rod." But God doesn't delight in vengeful destruction. Rather than as bloody sword or clenched fist, he comes as "light" in the midst of fear and despair, making everything clear and roads safe. God brings joy for his oppressed people, not revenge against hated Assyria. Most of this passage we heard earlier on Christmas night, when the newly born Jesus was proclaimed our "light." Here it applies to the adult Jesus revealed in his baptism and public life, who fulfills the promise of a light that liberates from sin and brings the joy of God's final-age kingdom. The responsorial verse further develops the light metaphor. To paraphrase: "The Lord is the source of my light, he saves me; with him I am as safe as in a fortress. I will never be afraid of anyone. The one thing asked (heart's desire) is opportunity to marvel at the Lord's Goodness, where we ask for his daily guidance." Biblical spirituality is practical and down-to-earth. Instead of contemplating God as a distant divine and unknowable essence, we focus on everyday expressions of his love and concern. This psalm thus advises us what to do in time of trial: Look back on all God's blessings we have already experienced, drawing strength for patient, firm faith in his continuing guidance and protection. With confidence in God and prayerful encouragement from fellow believers, depression and anxiety turn into courageous acceptance of what cannot be changed. "Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord!" "From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!'" (Gospel). Jesus formally summoned Israel to a complete turn-around, a radical change in values and behavior, in order to appropriate God's kingdom for itself. The final sentence summarizes Jesus' mission in three verbs. He "taught," revealing what we are to do; he "proclaimed the good news" of what God was doing; he "healed every illness and infirmity" as a sign of present reality, not just future hope.

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