Reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary time (Cycle A)
For generations of the children of the Light, the prophet Isaiah is clearly referencing to the Christ as its “firstborn”: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. A light has dawned on those who live in the land of the shadow of death. You have enlarged the nation; you have increased their joy. They rejoice before you … For the yoke of their burden, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressors, you have broken it.”
This Light – through the light we should all bear, as the Christ bore his – must shine throughout the world, so that “anguish, darkness will disappear”! This is our Mission.
How do we prepare for the Mission? He who preceded us so succinctly admonished, “Change your ways: the kingdom of heaven is near.” Preparation crucially begins in a painful conversion, followed by a hopeful transformation: For the love of the Light, one empties one’s self, discarding all that is false and evil, to reveal all that is true and good; after which, one’s self is lovingly filled by the Light, such that one becomes its image, a symbol and beacon for all others. Simply said, we must always be careful never to boast of ‘being God’ nor of ‘being equal to God’, for any one is clearly ‘not God’; but each one is invited to be ‘with God’ and ‘fully united to God’, such that each one loses one’s self and then ultimately ‘becomes God’.
How do we accomplish our Mission for the impending kingdom of justice and peace? He who preceded us so succinctly exhorted, “Come, follow me; and I will make you fish for people.” The Mission consists of a proclamation and a service: “Jesus went around … proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.”
To proclaim is to announce that the Light is already among us: selfishness and pride will soon be overcome by humility and charity; indifference and hatred will soon turn into mercy and compassion; power and prestige will soon maturate with responsibility and accountability. Injustice and violence shall be no more; justice and peace will eternally reign.
To serve is therefore an action of healing, an action of mending the brokenness we have all inflicted upon one another’s bodies and spirits; and an action of ensuring that this brokenness will never happen again. In this sense, to serve is therefore also an action of keeping everyone united, as the Apostle most vividly appeals, “I beg of you, brothers … to agree among yourselves, and do away with divisions; please be perfectly united, with one mind and one judgment.”
The Mission is undoubtedly without its hardships and persecutions. The Apostle persists, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to proclaim his gospel. And not with beautiful words! That would be like getting rid of the cross of Christ.” Our Mission is and will always be centered on this cross: in preparing, we are joyfully beginning to carry its weight; in proclaiming, we are joyfully bearing witness to its ‘disturbing’ truths; and in serving, we are joyfully bracing for its promised encounter with the Light.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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