As we enter into Ordinary Time, we will be following the Gospel of Matthew. In the readings for the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, we hear of Jesus’ selection of Simon and Andrew, James and John. Jesus is preaching that the kingdom of God is at hand, and the immediacy of His message led Him to start gathering the disciples around Him. His sense of mission has moved Him to action. We see that He isn’t just a man of words, but also of deeds.
Having just emerged from the Christmas season, we are given this image of a prophet who speaks the word of God and acts on it. It seems that a logical question might be this: Has your celebration of Christmas carried on, or is it simply passed and packed away for another year? Has the birth of the son of God made any difference in how you’re living right now?
Because we are between Christmas time and the beginning of Lent, we might interpret this time as a time for resting and relaxing in faith, rather than flexing our faith muscle during Ordinary Time. What have we learned through our celebration of Christmas that we might be able to put into action?
We know that the life of one person can truly make a difference. We know that God’s word can be made real among us. We know that love that is expressed always has the power to change lives. Just think about the birth of Jesus in such a far away place and an insignificant village, and yet He has influenced the entire world. What might that say to you about your own life and the power that you have to become the love of God enfleshed in your world? Do you communicate love to family, friends or colleagues simply by your presence among others? If we learned anything through the Christmas season, it was that the word made flesh has great power.
Jesus became a source of healing in His time. He would reach out to those who are thought to be unworthy, and He conveyed through acts of love that God truly loves everyone. Even as a baby in Bethlehem, He was able to bring together shepherds, the Magi and even those who were trying to kill Him. Even as an infant, Jesus’ presence brought about the gathering of many who normally would have nothing to do with each other. We normally don’t live that way, because inevitably, it creates tension. That tension happens when various individuals or groups of people don’t know how to live together in love. Instead of learning to live together in peace, Herod tries to get the Magi to lead him to the baby so he could kill Jesus and remove the source of tension.
Most of us live today in a world of separations. We hang around those who are very much like ourselves. We try to live in neighborhoods and even go to schools that include only those who are like us. We have such little practice at learning to live and worship with those who are very different than ourselves. How would life be different if we actively chose to put ourselves in the presence of those with whom we feel some tension? If we did this on a regular basis, we might begin to develop the skills of understanding and acceptance, even though we might not agree with those who are with us. We might actually form the habit of looking with love at those who are different than ourselves, rather than judging or holding a prejudice in our minds and hearts.
The responsorial psalm is very familiar. “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom should I fear?” Might this be a good motto by which to live during this Ordinary Time? May the Word become flesh and dwell among us.
Father Donald Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.