Bible Study for 1/26/20 • 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Howard Hampson | January 25, 2020 No Comments

January 26, 2020 • 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Isaiah 8:23–9:3
Psalm: Psalm 27:1, 4, 3, 13–14 (1a)
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10–13, 17
Gospel Acclamation: Matthew 4:23
Gospel: Matthew 4:12–23

Introduction

Some Scriptures resonate with us immediately. We get them and they evoke an emotional response. Others are kind of “check,” I know that; or maybe I didn’t know that but it seems kind of irrelevant to us and our situation; or maybe we don’t how it fits in with the rest if the Scripture and the Gospel. Or maybe we need to get a cup of coffee and prayerfully ponder the passages until the light dawns. This last was the case for me, when I started to ponder this Sunday’s readings.

First Reading

This passage must have seemed strange to the people of Judah to whom Isaiah was speaking. It starts out in the first paragraph talking about God degrading and then glorifying the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali, two of the original twelve tribes of Israel, part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (the northern ten tribes), which actually were in the process of being conquered by the Assyrian Empire as Isaiah began his prophetic ministry. Zebulun and Naphtali which were adjacent to the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River on their western shore and their banks had already fallen at this point and were thus degraded, the District of the Gentiles. Isaiah speaks of their future glorification when Messiah comes as if it has recently happened as he is writing this passage. For this passage is a Messianic prophecy which Jesus fulfilled, as Matthew points out by quoting this very passage in today’s Gospel reading.

Isaiah goes on in detail about what he means by these lands being glorified. Anguish has taken wing, darkness is dispelled, no more gloom or distress or oppression or slavery. They have been replaced by light, abundant joy and freedom. And again, he speaks as if this glorification of these lands is yesterday’s news and it is still ongoing.

If I were a citizen of Judah, I would be wondering, “What does this have to do with us? I haven’t heard of any change in the fortunes of Zebulun and Naphtali. And these Assyrians could be coming here next! Isaiah is one strange dude!”

Often, if we are honest, we feel the same disconnect as we read passages like these amidst our own anguish, darkness, gloom, distress, oppression and slavery. But there is one important point: God can restore and glorify us, regardless of our own attitudes and actions, that have brought us to our current situation.

Responsorial Psalm

The Psalmist in today’s Psalm writes as one amidst such times as Israel was experiencing in the First Reading. How do I know that? Look at the last paragraph:

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted and wait for the LORD.

He is waiting for better times while trusting the Lord in his present circumstances. How does he do that? By focusing on the Lord, our light and our salvation. We don’t need to be afraid. He is our refuge, our desire and our destiny. Look at the first two paragraphs.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?

One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD and contemplate his temple.

But if you are like me, you may have had trouble or are having trouble doing this. So how can we do what the psalmist says? The readings for today provide helpful tips which I will cover in my conclusion.

Second Reading

The Apostle Paul in today’s Second Reading urged the Corinthians and urges us in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to be united in speech, thinking and purpose, and as a body. There should be no rivalries or divisions or factions. Christians haven’t done very well in obeying this exhortation by the apostolic authority of Jesus through the Apostle Paul.

In fact, we celebrate our divisions and have created theologies in order to justify them following our preferred teachers.

Gospel Acclamation

Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom and cured every disease among the people.

Gospel

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He began His Galilean ministry, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah in our First Reading, which Matthew quotes in this passage. There He began to proclaim repentance and the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was at hand. Matthew records the calling of Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, along with James and his brother John, all fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, to follow Him and be made fishers of men. Then He went all around Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom to the multitudes as an open-air preacher, while curing every disease and illness among the people.

Conclusion

I am a part of the CHN community. I know that many of us are in the middle our own times of anguish, darkness, gloom, distress, oppression and slavery. And we are struggling. How can we do what the psalmist exhorted us to do and focus on the Lord as our light and our salvation as we wait for Him stoutheartedly?

First, remember the point of the First Reading. God can restore and glorify us, regardless of our own attitudes and actions, that have brought us to our current situation.

Second, remember to focus on the Lord like the psalmist. He is our only light, salvation and refuge in this world, our only sure thing. He is our destiny. The excerpt below reminds me of the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. They are means of grace to help us with our focus and be in His Presence. The arrow prayers, the liturgies, the chaplets, the litanies and all the prayers of the Church are our aids in doing so.

One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD and contemplate his temple.

Third, become part of the Body of Christ, which Jesus founded, preserves and is building. Stop acting like a lone ranger, following other lone rangers. Listen to the apostolic exhortation of Saint Paul, who didn’t want people saying they were followers of him. He wanted them to be part of the one Body. Trust the promise of Jesus to Peter in Matthew 16. Jesus did not fail. Neither did He promise a perfect Church this side of heaven, because it is a hospital for sinners, staffed by sinners, with enemy agents sown within. We are soldiers of Christ, and we stand in union with the Church Militant, Suffering and Triumphant. And we need all the graces provided through His Church to fight the battle.

Finally, we need to repent and follow Jesus as He makes us fishers of men, proclaiming His kingdom and being instruments of His healing to those around us. We need Him to heal us of the deadliest disease of all: our sin. He may choose to heal us of our other diseases in this life, or they may be His means to bring us home to Himself, to the Father’s house.

If we do these things, we will find and experience the glorification and blessing promised to Zebulun and Naphtali in the First Reading. The Apostle Paul experienced them in Ephesians 3:

20 Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us,
21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (NABRE)