Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time we mark the occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God which was instituted a few years ago by Pope Francis, our Supreme Pontiff with the purpose of rediscovering our love and zeal for the Lord through the deepening of our knowledge and understanding of the Sacred Scriptures. It is important that we have to spend some time and effort to get to know more about the Word of God contained within the Scriptures and hence, that is why this Sunday in particular, let us all delve into what we have just heard from the Scripture passages and focus our attention on the truth that the Lord Himself has brought into our midst.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of the prophecy speaking of the coming of the Messiah, of the coming of the Light of salvation that dispels the darkness surrounding the region of Naphtali and Zebulun, which by the time of the Lord Jesus was known as the region of Galilee. It was in Galilee that the Lord’s family originated from, as St. Joseph and Mary stayed in the small town of Nazareth in Galilee, although St. Joseph at least initially hailed from the tribe of Judah in Bethlehem. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council later on said that no prophet were to be expected to come from the region and hence, Jesus must have been a false prophet and Messiah.

Yet, if only they had read the prophet Isaiah and his prophecies more carefully, just as we have heard ourselves in our first reading today, then they would have realised that the Saviour of the world would indeed come through the region of the north, the lands of Naphtali and Zebulun, the land of Galilee, where the Lord indeed stayed during the early years of His life, and also where He began His ministry after His Baptism at the Jordan. Contextually it is also significant to take note that back then, at the time of the prophet Isaiah, the land of Naphtali and Zebulun, as part of the northern kingdom of Israel, had become a foreign land, after the destruction of that kingdom by the Assyrians, as its people had been brought off into exile in far away lands, and foreigners were brought in to dwell in those lands.

By the time of the Lord Jesus, a few centuries after the time of the prophet Isaiah, the lands mentioned was known as Galilee, and that region was also still in the peripheries of the communities of the people of God, which was mainly centred in Jerusalem and Judea back then. That the Lord decided to come to those regions was also highly symbolic and meaningful, as it represents the Lord’s desire to gather back all of His scattered people, and to restore the honour of the people of God, and at the same time also calling upon the people from distant lands and from the pagan nations to embrace the truth and love of God. It means that God’s salvation was not only meant for the Jewish people only, but to all the children of mankind, to all the peoples of all races and origins, just as God has always intended.

And as we heard the Gospel passage today, again that same prophecy from the prophet Isaiah was repeated, proclaiming the coming of God’s salvation as made true and real by the actions that the Lord carried out in Galilee, as He called His first disciples and gathered them all, choosing the Twelve among them to be His Apostles, while also performing many miracles and wonders, healing many of the sick who came to Him and were brought to Him. He went from places to places, healing the sick, casting out demons, making those who were blind to be able to see again, and opening the ears and loosening the tongues of the mute, fulfilling the many other prophecies that Isaiah and the other prophets had been proclaiming about the Messiah.

And all of these had been proclaimed to us as well, the truth that God has shown us and delivered to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Through His Church, the Lord has revealed and taught to us His ways, and showed us the proof of His salvation. Like the Apostles we have received the same truth and Good News, and it was through them and their successors that we have received this truth, passed down successively down the generations through the Church of God. Without the hard work and efforts of the Apostles, the other disciples and their successors throughout the history of the Church, there would have not been any of these things happening. We would have remained ignorant of the truth of God, and separated from His salvation and grace.

This reminds us today as we commemorate this Sunday of the Word of God that each and every one of us have been called by God to our various ministries and callings in life, depending on the various gifts, talents and abilities that He had given us. All of us have been called to embrace the Lord’s calling of not only just knowing and appreciating the Word of God more in our lives, but also in proclaiming the Word of God and the truth of God in the midst of our respective various communities, in our schools and workplaces, amidst our families, relatives and circles of friends and acquaintances, and even to strangers whom we encounter daily in our respective lives. And we cannot be effective and faithful servants of the Lord and His Word, unless we have good knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence, it is important that we commit some time to spend each day and each and every available moments to us, to read the Sacred Scriptures and deepen our knowledge and understanding of it. However, it is important that we also have to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the teachings of the Church as well because if we read the Scriptures and interpret it based on our own understanding and comprehension, then as history had shown us, it can lead us into the path of error, as the many heresies and the false paths had done, and also those who believe that the Scriptures alone hold the sole authority of God’s truth, or ‘sola Scriptura’. Instead, the teachings of the Church, its Magisterium is important in ensuring that our understanding and appreciation of the Sacred Scriptures remain rooted in Christ and His truth.

That is why, first of all we need to spend more time in reading the Scriptures, as if we do not even know the words contained within it, how can we even begin to discern if something we heard from elsewhere or others are true or false? Especially during this time of rapid information exchange and greater availability of informations from all sources, it is very easy for us to be swayed into falsehoods, just as misinformations and fake news had been making rounds all around the world in the past few years and decade. That is why, after we have spent the time to read more of the Scriptures, we also have to deepen our understanding of the Scriptures through knowing more of the teachings of the Church as contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as through careful listening and reflection of the words of the bishops and priests who are our teachers and guides, in guiding us together within the Church into the right path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why it is also important that we also help one another to stay in the path of truth, by sharing with one another whatever insight and understanding we have of the Scriptures, rooted in the traditions and teachings of the Church and the Apostles. Let us all be zealous and committed evangelisers and missionaries, in our daily living, in our every moments. Let us do our very best to be exemplary in faith and to be inspiration to each other in our faith and in our lives. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us as well, so that hopefully we may lead more others to the path of God’s salvation and grace. May God bless us in our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

2 thoughts on “Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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