“The Lord is my light and my salvation.” The proclamation of the Responsorial Psalm 27 on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time sets the tone for the Word of God that the Church honors, proclaims and celebrates today. The Psalm gives us the means of professing our faith in God who manifests his desire and care for his people by offering us light, salvation, and refuge.
In fact, all the scriptures proclaimed today offer us some good insights on how we might continue to love and cherish God’s Word. The themes of Christmas and Epiphany that emphasized God’s light and glory and the beginnings of Christ’s presence in our midst now give way to the source of the divine light that shines on the beginning of his public ministry. Passages from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew speak of the way those who walked in darkness and gloom saw a great light that brought freedom, abundant joy, and great rejoicing.
In these early weeks of Ordinary Time, we continue to hear and reflect on God’s Word as it helps us understand who Jesus is: light, Emmanuel, an obedient servant, beloved Son, Lamb of God, and so on. The readings are filled with images of light and darkness, promise and fulfillment. The image of Jesus as the light that dispels the darkness is visibly seen in what he says and how he acts. Matthew quotes the passage from Isaiah that we hear in the first reading. Matthew makes it clear that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise that God made more than 700 years before the birth of Christ. As we begin to think about these readings, we ask ourselves how they might apply to us and to our lives. The Church teaches us that we are all called to union with Christ, who is the light of the world. We come from this light, which is Christ. From his light we go forth, and we live our lives through and by this light, which is Christ. We are called to direct our whole lives toward this light, which is Christ. (Cf. Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 3)
This weekend, we celebrate “Sunday of the Word of God.” While the Word of God is always central to our faith and celebration of the Eucharist, Pope Francis instituted this special Sunday of the Word of God for all dioceses and churches throughout the world on September 30, 2019. The Pope’s intention was that through this celebration, Catholics would study, learn, love and come to cherish the Holy Scriptures. As the Holy Father noted in the Apostolic Letter of that date, “A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers.”
Lastly, it is worth noting that, in his declaration of the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time as Sunday of the Word of God, Pope Francis said that this Sunday is a “fitting part of that time of year when we are encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity… since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.” Today, Saint Paul gives the exhortation to the Corinthians and to us: “I urge, you… 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.” In the face of rivalries in the community according to their favorite human leader, Paul puts the cross of Christ before them and reminds them that it is Jesus Christ who unites them and saves them. And it is Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, who calls them and us first to repent and then to follow.
Today, we pray that, by the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, we will continue to hear and cherish the Word he speaks to us, that, hearing his call, we may always be open to his invitation to follow, and that we will grow in our communion of mind and purpose with our fellow Christians and disciples.