Isaiah 8:23-9:3/Psalm 26(27):1, 4, 13-14/1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17/ Matthew 4:12-23
Fr. Dan Evbotokhai
The Word that gives light
Pope Francis’ on 30 September, establishes that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God. Today is the Third Sunday in ordinary time therefore; it will mark the inauguration of the “Sunday of the Word of God”
30 September is the Feast of Saint Jerome, the man who translated most of the Bible into Latin. This year marks 1600 years since his death. The document is titled “Aperuit illis”. They are its opening words, taken from St Luke’s Gospel, where Luke describes how the Risen Jesus appeared to His disciples, and how “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”. Beloved in Christ, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” says St. Jerome. The bible is the primary text book for Christianity. It is first point of reference for theology or God talk. It is the slate for learning the A B C D of the Faith. Today, Christians want power but lack knowledge of the dimensions of God. We all need to rediscover the Sacred Scripture; we need to hunger for this word to be truly satisfied by it. Prov.19:2 says desire without knowledge is not good. So when we desire God we should seek to know him, we cant know him if we are ignorant of his word. The word of God is the sword of the world, if we remain ignorant of God’s word we shall be ignorant of his presence. Therefore, like never before let us rise to study his word.
Ps. 119:130 says the entrance of the word gives light, Jesus the word as soon as he entered the region of Galilee were he began his ministry the scripture says that the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light and for those who sat at the region of the shadow of death light has dawned. A fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading. Mean while the land of Galilee with the two tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali were under siege by the Assyrians, they were in real darkness. Jesus came to give them light. Jesus is the Word that gives light to the world. Where light is darkness disappears. Little wonder when he called us to follow him he says in Jn.8:12 “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
The theme of followership forms the second theme in our gospel reading today. Jesus says to Peter and Andrew, “follow me” to John and James “Follow me”. To follow him means to imitate him. It is a call to discipleship; the way of discipleship is the way of the cross. Lk.14: 25–27 Jesus says “…Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”. Who is a disciple? The New Ratio no. 61 says a “disciple is one whom the Lord has called to stay with him, to follow him, and to become a missionary of the Gospel”. We are disciples, let us stay with him and follow him. Today we have become too obsessed with leadership and not follower-ship. Thus all we hear is leadership conference and not followership conference. A good leader was once led. We need to be good followers. If we follow then we shall not wallow; if we follow then we shall be saved; for he is the way, the truth and the life Jn.14:6. When we follow him like Matthew we shall make a feast, we shall glow and not groan.
Another theme in today’s reading is the theme of “Renunciation” The Gospel says when Peter and Andrew were called immediately they left their nets and followed him. Again when He called James and John the gospel says they left their boat and their father and followed him. A true disciple must leave something; there must always be something to resist, and something to renounce in order to serve God genuinely. In Luke 14:33 Jesus says “whoever does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” To renounce all is called absolute renunciation. This is a major theme in Luke’s Gospel. The disciples must leave everything: Lk.5: 11 “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Him”. Lk. 18:22 Jesus says to the rich man “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give the money to the poor, […] then come, follow me.”
We too must leave everything; to leave everything may sound too harsh and rash but as a matter of fact at death a man leaves everything, the Church is a place where we learn to leave everything; it is a place where we learn the true meaning of temporal goods. One best way to leave everything is to renounce Satan and all his empty promises; this is the confession we make at our baptism true disciples must effect it in their daily lives. Some of us what we need most is to greed and other addictions; some just have to renounce cultism, prostitution, extra-marital affairs; many others have to renounce gossip, pride, malice and envy so that they can truly follow Christ. The summary of it all is captured in the gospel ‘Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand’. Repent don’t just means sorrow for sins or tears at its reminder. It actually means a ‘change of mind’ – a change not just in an adjustment but involving a transformation of attitude at a deep personal level. May God give us the grace to renounce satan and follow Christ the light of the world. Amen.
Fr. Evaristus Okeke
My Attentiveness to the Word of God
On September 30, 2019, Pope Francis announced that the Third Sunday in Ordinary time would be celebrated as the Sunday of the Word of God. This Sunday of the Word of God was instituted in his Apostolic Letter, “Aperuit illis”. With reference to Lk.24:45, the Holy Father noted that without the Lord who opens our minds to the Scriptures, it is impossible to understand it in-depth. Also, “without the Scripture, the events of the mission of Jesus and of his Church in this world would remain incomprehensible”. It is the bible that enables us know and understand Jesus and his Church. Therefore, “the relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of believers and sacred Scripture is essential to our identity as Christians”.
Every action of God whether explicitly or inexplicitly contained in the scriptures is God’s act of revealing himself to man. It is through the actions of God that man can know him because God, being a Spirit, is invisible and so cannot be subjected to empirical investigation. It is the will of God that man should have access to him and thus become sharers in the divine nature (cf.Eph.2:18; 2Pet.1:4). It is in having access to the Father that we are saved. Without God revealing himself, we cannot have access to him. Therefore, in the Word of God is our salvation.
The Word of God is central to our lives. Each time we gather for a liturgical celebration, we set out time to read and reflect on the Word of God; because every liturgical celebration is authenticated by the Word of God. However, today, we consciously reflect not on aspects on the Word of God but on the Word of God itself as a deposit of Faith.
If the bible is all about God’s revelation of himself, it means that God speaks and acts. Thus, the consequent demand the Word of God imposes on us is attentiveness. Today, we are evaluating our attentiveness to the Word of God. Attentiveness is deeper than listening for it involves compliance. The first fruit of attentiveness is that we come to realize that it is God who opens himself to us; we do not discover God on our own. That explains why in today’s gospel Jesus himself went about selecting his disciples. That was not the practice at that time; the reverse is usually the case. A would-be disciple will look out for a person whom he admires and wants to learn from as a disciple. The disciple chooses the master.
When God calls us, he invites us into his light. You cannot be abiding in the Word of God and be in darkness. This means that you will not be associated with the works of darkness neither will darkness be able to overcome you. In the first reading, Isaiah noted that this movement from darkness to light will be associated with the coming of the Messiah. The Word of God is the manual which directs us on how to make this movement.
A sign that you an expert in using a machine is when you have been able to properly study the manual such that even without looking at it, you can perfectly operate the machine. In the same vein, a sign that you are abiding in the Word of God is when you are able to read, assimilate and live it out such that our actions too are revealing God to others. Abiding in the Word of God is like wiping a very dirty mirror. The more you do it, the clearer will be your reflection. That dirty is sin – darkness. There is no sin that people commit that is not condemned in the Bible. So, even though the bible is not a book on morals, it surely guides us along the right path.
The second reading points out one common but grave error that prevents people from ripping the fruits of the Word of God. Permit me to call it spiritual God-fatherism. This happens when people entirely rely on others to know the will of God for themselves. That is timidity and St. Paul tells us that the Spirit we have received is not one of timidity. I do not say that alone we can fully comprehend the Word of God. No! Sensus Fidei means that God has given the Magisterium the infallible power of teaching the faith (which means we must rely on it). However, sesus fidei also means that God has given the people the grace to receive the teaching of the faith infallibly.
This means that while we must be taught, we are also capable of understanding and living it out ourselves. Anyone who explains the Word of God to you in a manner that you will always have to rely on the person for every application of it, is doing you a disservice. The Word of God is not the word of any human being. As men, we are servants of the Word not masters. We do not have the right to alter it in any way; rather we continue to rely on the Holy Spirit for more enlightenment in understanding the Word of God.
Beloved, it is one thing to possess the bible, it is another thing to put it into use. Do not turn the bible to a tool for decoration in your home. The bible does not work like an air freshener that is effective by mere physical presence. For the Word of God to be active in you, you must read it, love it, believe it, apply it and become it. Only then can we confidently say in the words of the psalmist: “The Lord is my light and my salvation”. *God Bless You!*