Sunday Scriptures

United in Mind and Purpose

by Father James Rodriguez

One of the eminent challenges our Church faces today is the lack of Christian unity. There are divisions outside and inside our Church, and it is no wonder that our world, country, city and families are in the same boat. Indeed, from the very beginning – once Adam and Eve separated themselves from God’s friendship – we’ve been looking for wholeness.

On this third Sunday of Ordinary Time, our good God assures us that it will not always be so. In fact, in His eyes it is already done: “anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.” In this beautiful passage from the prophecy of Isaiah, God reminds us that indeed we “have seen a great light,” and it is precisely this common witness that is our only hope as a people and as a world to find the peace we so desperately long for.

In today’s psalm we declare this very truth by chanting together: “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” All too often the responsorial psalm can become for the passive churchgoer – and the priest, in inattentive moments – a musical interlude that passes us by and leaves us unchanged. However, and especially today, the psalm can provide a powerful meditation on what it means to be a person of faith. Our singing of these words can help them to sink in and stay long past the dismissal at the end of Mass.

Illuminating the Darkness

To call the Lord our light is to echo the ancient sentiments of those faithful ones who allowed God to illuminate even the darkest crevices of their lives, to shine light on parts they might rather keep hidden. In this vulnerability before God in which we let go of our fig leaves, we allow Him to draw us in and give us the only protection that actually works: His loving embrace, which shields us from sin. As long as we insist on saving ourselves without His help, however, we repeat the cycle of distrust and isolation. We can even come to fear Him in the unhealthy sense that keeps us from praying as we ought. We might faithfully go to Mass, but do we listen? Indeed, can we listen if fear is constantly beating in our ears more loudly, but never more insistently, than the gentle voice of the Father calling out, “Where are you?”

St. Paul knew this voice well, having heard it on the road to Damascus. In response, he insists on true Christian unity. All who claim belief in Christ must be “united in the same mind and in the same purpose” – that is nothing less than the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified. Without this fundamental declaration, even the best words ring hollow. If the Church is truly the body of Christ on earth, than disunity in her is disunity in Him, and woe to us if we make it worse. As believers today, we share in the responsibility to heal divisions that have threatened our Church from the beginning. Every crisis since then has claimed the unity of believers as its primary victim.

Jesus came precisely to heal this disunity. Both the long and short versions of today’s Gospel begin the same way: with St. Matthew drawing a connection between today’s first reading and Jesus taking on John the Baptist’s cry: “Repent!” This turning away from sin had a renewed urgency to it since “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This kingdom is manifested on earth as the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, the mission of which is precisely to perpetuate the very presence of God to a frightened world. In our sinfulness, instead of running and hiding as our first parents did, He asks us to stay and to trust. He urges us to reject sinfulness instead of once again rejecting Him.

Call to Discipleship, Sonship

The long version links this general call to repentance with the specific call of the first Apostles, Andrew and Peter. He calls these men to be fishers of men, to lead His holy Church in the grand enterprise of extending to all of humanity the call to discipleship and infinitely deeper call to Sonship. Do you think it is a coincidence that the first two Apostles are brothers? Rather, they are a model of humanity. Just as Cain and Abel represent our fractured fraternity, Andrew and Peter – united in Christ – reveal the vast possibilities of you and me.

The Lord went about healing every disease and illness, restoring the world, one broken individual at a time. At the altar we are called to communion, to share in the body and blood that, as a Church, we are called to be; to feed the world and be made whole by the Lord we imitate.


Editor’s Note: The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is Jan. 18-25. This year’s theme is: “Reconciliation: The Love of Christ Compels Us.”