Tuesday, January 17, 2017

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Discernment.  It’s a word we use when we need to carefully and prayerfully come to a life-altering decision.  Often this term is used for those who are contemplating a vocation to the priesthood or the religious life, but the truth is we the laity are faced with discernments of our own.  We are regularly faced with decisions about school, majors, job opportunities and relationships that can alter the course of our lives.  This week’s readings focus on our need for discernment:

Isaiah 8:23-9:3-1
Psalm 27-1, 4, 13-14
1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Mathew 4:12-23

Our first reading comes from early Isaiah.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel has fallen to the Assyrians, and the people of the Southern Kingdom of Judah fear they are next.  But over some time a new regime has taken has hold in the former lands of Israel, and Isaiah sees this as a useful example of God’s mercy.  Lands that were in anguish and darkness now “have seen a great light.”  This light shines from a land that now has a large non-Israelite (Gentile) population, and Isaiah hopes this will convince his fellow Israelites in the South that one only needs to put their trust in the Lord.  By looking at the lessons of the past and the grace of the present, one can discern that, as our Psalm sings, that “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”

These very same words from Isaiah also appear in our Gospel from Matthew.  Jesus has been discerning his own mission.  He’s been baptized by John and has been tempted by the devil in the desert.  He knows it’s time to begin his ministry, but where and how?  Jesus learns that John has been arrested, so it would seem Jerusalem is no longer a safe, so he goes to Galilee.  Why Galilee?  First, it’s sufficiently far enough away from Jerusalem (some 65-75 miles north).  Second, it’s not far from his family home in Nazareth.  Third and most importantly to Matthew’s readers, it fulfills the prophecy from Isaiah, which we heard in our first reading, and hear again in our Gospel… that this great light will rise from Zebulun and Naphtali… what we know in Jesus’ time as the land of Galilee.  So that gives Jesus the where… but how will he deliver his message.  He’s going to need help, so we next see Jesus gathering his first Apostles… the brothers Simon (Peter) and Andrew, along with James and his brother John.

Our second reading continues our study of Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians.  It is apparent that the community is becoming divided with different factions claiming allegiance to different leaders.  Here Paul reminds them that it was in Jesus in whom they were baptized.  It was through Jesus’ suffering on the cross that brought us to salvation.  Therefore, regardless of any other internal conflicts or politics, they have made a commitment to Christ, and that is what binds us together as a community.

Final Thoughts:
Discernment and vocation go hand in hand.  A vocation is much more than a job or a career, it is taking on a particular way of life.  Something that needs to be carefully discerned because once you’ve made the choice, there’s no turning back.  This is why we so often relate the term “vocation” to someone discerning a calling to the priesthood or the religious life.  In those choices we can easily see how those decisions can impact someone’s life.  But a vocation is not just a call to the priesthood or the religious life.  It is a way of forming one’s daily thoughts and actions to the Gospel.  It is a decision that every Christian must discern…  deciding for ourselves how best to fulfill our calling to be followers of Christ.

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