3rd Sunday in Ordinary time, Year A, 23/01/2023, Mt 4, 12-23
Words of wisdom: “There’s a fine line between a long, drawn-out sermon and a hostage situation.”
The theme for Christian Unity this year is: Be-longing: Praying for unity in an unjust world. It focuses on the tragedy into which society falls because of racism which causes division, foments hatred, destroys trust and leads to people acting inhumanely towards each other.
The key focus, however, is belonging. Covid has taught us many lessons. The isolating effects of the disease prevented us visiting our loved ones and even our families for fear of spreading the disease. It brought home the importance of being together, not just on a phone, even phones with video, but together in person.
In the early days of ecumenism, the different Christian denominations met seeking to outline their strengths and understandings of Christianity in the hope that the others would agree and conform. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit, the source of wisdom, had other ideas. This Spirit of God opened up a new way of encounter that began with listening; truly listening to other denominations, but listening with a desire not only to learn but in a way that helped each denomination enrich itself and deepen its understanding of faith. In this way the churches came to realise that they had far, far more in common than they had differences. Misunderstandings were clarified and false myths laid to rest. This led to a desire to work and pray together especially around issues that concerned the whole community.
Listening to the Gospel, we learn that, unlike other leaders, Jesus worked from the bottom up rather than from the top down. In fact, it is clear that many of the leaders wanted nothing to do with Jesus. Galilee was part of the kingdom furthest from the centre and Jesus was welcomed with open arms because he taught the people that God loved and valued them unconditionally.
Further reflection leads us to realise that in terms of Christian Unity there is far greater unity among grass-root members of our churches than Church leaders admit. There is a growing belief that we all belong together under Christ. God makes clear that we are accepted and welcomed, warts and all, whatever our imperfections. God reaches out to embrace us as we are with a love beyond understanding. The greater our sense of belonging, the greater our desire to welcome and value anyone we encounter. This leaves no room for any kind of discrimination, hatred or rejection of others. This sense of belonging that we have nurtured and developed in Hitchin forcefully militates against injustice.
The Unity Booklet points out that: “To seek justice is to create space for God’s just ordering and enduring wisdom in a world too often unmoved by suffering. And yet, there is joy in doing what is right. There is joy in affirming that “Black Lives Matter”, that Refugees and Asylum seekers are our brothers and sisters, as we actively pursue justice for God’s oppressed, dominated, and exploited loved ones. There is power in giving in to wisdom’s call for justice, and in doing it as Churches together, as one Christian family.
And finally: Fr Bryan Massingale, a world leading social ethicist and scholar in racial justice, shares with us his hope and challenge:
“Social life is made by human beings.
The society in which we live
is the result of human choices and decisions.
This means that human beings can change things.
What humans break, divide and separate,
we can, with God’s help,
also heal, unite and restore.
What is now - does not have to be.
Herein lies the hope and the challenge.”
by Fr. Thomas O'BRIEN a.a