Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
Jan. 23: Third Sunday In Ordinary Time
The first reading may sound familiar. We heard it at the midnight Mass on Christmas. Then, the focus was on the light that shines in the darkness. This week, it focuses on “Zebulon and Naphtali … the district of the Gentiles.”
The second reading focuses on Christian unity. The Church in Corinth was plagued by dissension and division revolving around particular individuals and the cult of personality, which is always a danger. Paul reminds them that they were not baptized in his or any other name; only Christ’s name. The Church teaches “Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church.” This reading is especially appropriate in light of the fact that it is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan. 18-25).
The proclamation of the kingdom and the call to repentance began in a place where people were blind to God. Jesus inaugurated his ministry in “Galilee of the Gentiles” rather than in the more exclusively Jewish territory of Judea to demonstrate that the Gospel is meant for everyone.
Key verse: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The word ‘catholic’ means ‘universal,’ in the sense of ‘according to the totality’ or ‘in keeping with the whole.’ The Church is catholic in a double sense: First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. ‘Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.’ In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head. Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race” (No. 830-831).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The Church was born in the Twelve of the Holy Spirit, from the beginning, for all peoples, and hence was from the beginning also oriented toward expressing herself in all cultures and being thereby the one people of God: here is no local congregation slowly spreading, but the yeast is always related to the whole and, hence, from the very first moment bears universality with itself” (“Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith”).
Life application: The Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ to the whole human race; to dispel the darkness of sin and to bring the light of the Gospel to all people, everywhere. The Church is also one because of her source, who is God; she is one because of Christ, from whose side she was born; and she is one because of the Holy Spirit, which is her soul. “Unity” the catechism teaches “is the essence of the Church” (813).
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. For information on subscribing to "Breaking Open the Word, click here. For archives click here.