Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
The promise is fulfilled. The Messiah is here. He brings salvation to His people, so He proclaims: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4: 17). Jesus calls His first disciples to become fishers of men and to be His helpers in His work of salvation. In Baptism He also calls us to be disciples and follow His footsteps. Today we are His manifestation.
Repentance is a situation when a person realizes that he did something wrong that needs to be corrected with another person. He realizes that he has entertained a lie, gave in to temptation, arrogantly boasted of his power to injure another, and turned away from the basic truth that he was created in the image and likeness of God, not in the likeness of the devil. When a person sins he follows the ways of darkness. When he repents, he returns to the truth that he is a child of light.
This realization that man is a child of light comes through education in the faith, truth and fear of the Lord. It helps reason to accept the truth that God puts His laws in the hearts of men, laws that bring peace and harmony. God said through the prophet Jeremiah: “I will make with them an eternal covenant, never to cease doing good to them; into their hearts I will put the fear of me, that they may never depart from me” (32:40). Without this education in the faith, man realizes that his life and his purpose are always wanting, selfish and without direction.
When we repent of our sins and faults, we realize that we did not cause harm only to ourselves, but above all to others and to the Church. We understand that we are unable to walk in the light without the necessary means given by the Holy Spirit through the Church. This realization of sinfulness compels us to hope in the Lord and in the ways of the Church; that He will lead us back to Himself through His love and mercy.
Today, when the culture of death, like abortion, artificial contraception, death as capital punishment, seems to prevail, and drugs, alcohol and other vices seem to bring temporary relief to their users, education in the faith and formation of families in hope are very appropriate. Praying, reflecting on the Scriptures and serving the needy will produce that healthy fear of God that leads us away from selfishness and pride and that leads us to the hope that saves, Jesus, our Redeemer. Because sin, or any social offence, causes sadness to others and alienate us from God and the Church, we need to bridge this rift and make restitution for the offense we committed. That is why we are given the Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, so that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are able to return to the life of the Church and to our families, and shine brightly as children of God.
We need lots of prayers that will bring us closer to God and to one another. In his encyclical Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI says: “when we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well. In prayer we must learn what we can truly ask of God—what is worthy of God. We must learn that we cannot pray against others. We must learn that we cannot ask for the superficial and comfortable things that we desire at this moment—that meager, misplaced hope that leads us away from God. We must learn to purify our desires and our hopes. We must free ourselves from the hidden lies with which we deceive ourselves” (#33).
In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul proclaims: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose” (1:10). Then, our repentance, our service and our prayer will be effective, meaningful and fruitful.
When we celebrate the Eucharist, we celebrate the Last Supper. He brings us all together to Himself, as He proclaims through the priest at the consecration of the bread and wine: Take this, all of you, and eat of it. This is my body which will be given up for you…. This is the Cup of My Blood…. It will be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.
Let this memorial be our life and our hope, as we journey together toward His Kingdom, where, with the whole heavenly court, the people who walked in darkness will see a great light and upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light shines (Is 9:1).