HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
THEME: The Nature of Jesus’ Ministry
BY: Fr. Vincent Onwukwe.
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ ministry narrates how Jesus began His public ministry from Zebulun and Naphtali, located in Galilee. About these two cities, Isaiah prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is. 9:2). This statement was fulfilled by Jesus, who brought the light of salvation to them. But why were these cities referred to as the people who walked in darkness? In Isaiah’s time, Zebulun and Naphtali were populated primarily by pagans, and the few Jewish remnants found it challenging to hold on to their faith as God’s people. Similarly, during the time of Jesus, this area of Israel was part of Galilee. It was called the ‘Galilee of Gentiles’ to distinguish it from other parts of Galilee because it was surrounded by pagans, though it was a Jewish territory. This Galilee of Gentiles was also looked down on by other Jews because of its pagan influences.
Remarkably, Jesus began His salvific ministry in these pagan territories. This shows that the salvific message of Jesus is universal. Jesus’ ministry was based on the principle of inclusion; everyone had/ has the chance to be part of God’s kingdom. We must therefore learn from Jesus, putting an end to every form of discrimination, for we all are children of God our Father. He also teaches us not to exclude ourselves from the salvation that Jesus brought and brings to us. Jesus loves us all, regardless of race, tribe, status, or appearance. He wants us to break up with our past and be included in His Kingdom. He wants to bring life into the dark areas of our lives. But He wants us to open up those dark areas to Him.
Another principle adopted by Jesus in His ministry is the principle of team spirit and partnership. When He heard that John had been arrested, Jesus began to preach the same message that John was preaching before his arrest: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near” (Mt. 3: 2, NRSV). There was a unity of purpose and continuity between Jesus and John. Jesus continued from where John stopped because He believed in cooperation rather than competition. Jesus also expressed the spirit of partnership in His call of the apostles. He wanted to work with a particular group whom He would teach that they may teach others. This challenges the spirit of competition that was evident in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 1: 10-13) – ‘I belong to Paul’, ‘I belong to Apollos’, ‘I belong to Cephas’. So often, we hold on to our personal or group identities and lose sight of the fact that we need each other to succeed in life; for no one is an Island. As Christians, We all belong to God our Father and should work together to achieve our common goal – God’s kingdom. We must, therefore, put an end to every form of rivalry, dissension, hatred, hostility, pride, etc. that prevents us from appreciating ‘the other’. Furthermore, the ‘Corinthian disposition’ of belonging to Paul or Cephas calls our attention to the extreme concentration on ‘wo/men of God’, which can lead to little focus on the God of wo/men. St Paul encourages us to concentrate on God, who brings about spiritual growth and see those He uses to orchestrate this growth as mere instruments.
Finally, the content of the message of Jesus is a source of great reflection: “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven has come near you” (Mtt. 4:17). Hence, the message of Jesus was and is the message of repentance which was evidenced in the acceptance of the Kingdom of God. It is a spiritual message, a call to repentance. Repentance, among other things, implies changing our mentality and thought pattern and thinking and moving towards the direction of God and His kingdom, and not being earth-bound. This message of repentance is meant to confront Christians, challenging us to put an end to our sinful lifestyle. It is not a motivational speech aimed at making us feel good. It rather convicts us of our sins to strengthen our inclusion into God’s plan and Kingdom.
May the Light of Jesus shine in every dark area of our lives, and may nothing separate us from His Kingdom! Amen!
God bless you richly!
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