January 27, 2008 Year A
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reflections on the Readings
Is 8:23—9:3; Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14
1 Cor 1:10-13, 17; Mt 4:12-23 or 4:12-17
Theme: We Have Seen A Great Light
For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Let us begin with a proposition. The Church is the door to everything Christ meant for us to know about God and our salvation.
We have just concluded a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In fact, this Octave of Prayer is now 100 years old. This annual observance is based upon the prayer of Jesus in John 17, where Jesus' prayer to the Father is that 'they may be one, even as you and I are one'. So the anguish and question remain, "Is Christ divided?"
Most of the last 30 years of my life and ministry was absorbed by the conviction that there is only 'one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of us all.' I enlisted all of my powers, the talents of my wife and children, and participated in various media opportunities and community wide ecumenical events to foster this conviction I lived and prayed for.
Countless sermons, prayers, conversations and hours of prayer and contemplation deepened my awareness and desire for the unity of the faith.
Through those 30 years I became pastor in a number of Christian denominations. Every change in church affiliation was not from confusion but from my desire to understand what is meant by the words 'till we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine.' (Ephesians 4:13, 14)
My experience in pastoring in the Pentecostal church, Methodist church, and finally as priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church, only caused me to yearn even more for the unity of the faith.
But there is only one Church, and the Founder of it gave only one set of keys. Those keys and the authority they symbolize were given to Peter. We can ignore that truth and go on our way. But to ignore it is to ignore the basic foundation to the unity of the faith and of the Church. And subsequently this would erode our fervency in prayer for true Christian Unity.
I finally had to ask, "Where else is there preserved what the Church has always believed and preached than in the Church that has always been and always will be?" Jesus did not say I will build churches, but, I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18) Reception into the Church at the Easter Vigil of 2006 meant for me the fulfillment of my quest to know and experience the unity of the faith.
This Reflection is not an effort in polemics against other Christians of the Reformed or Protestant persuasion. It was in the Pentecostal church of my childhood where I met Jesus at the Altar at which I bowed. At that church my pastor baptized me in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost and consequently into Christ's death, burial and resurrection. In baptism I was infused with the life and nature of Christ. And at that church I learned about the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in a real and personal way. So in no way do I cast any disparaging attitude toward any of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Such an attitude would further wound the divided Body of Christ. Our task is to heal rather than further wounding and dividing the people of God.
If my earlier proposition holds water, then we must pray that we never block, diminish or hinder the door of the Church. Let it never be asked by a convert to the Church, "Where's the joy?" In other words, let's be the Welcome Wagon par excellence.
All would agree some light is better than no light at all. In my little daughter's bedroom we have a nightlight. It's just enough light to keep the boogeyman or the monkey at bay. But in the shadows cast by the light of my childhood faith I discerned there was yet more to all that I had come to know about Jesus. That light has become a great light. And perhaps for you and for me, there is always the need to become more responsive to the LIGHT WHO IS JESUS.
From today's Gospel it is said that those in Galilee saw a great light, and they were the first to hear Jesus preach, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." God is light and in Him is no darkness. Let us live in the light and in that light gaze upon the beauty of the Lord in the house of the Lord.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, I confess you are eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, and Light from Light. With Mary your Mother may I continually ponder this in my heart. Amen.