THIRD SUNDAY IN THE ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A.
26th January 2020.
Isaiah 8:23-9:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17; Matthew 4:12-23.
In today’s gospel, three facts are predominant. The first is that John the Baptist, the cousin to Jesus Christ, is arrested by King Herod on account of his sermons that exposed his evil deeds. The second is the fact that Jesus Christ began his public ministry after his cousin’s arrest. The third and most important fact is that instead of a reprisal attack on king Herod, he tolled the path of a non-violent preaching of a Kingdom of God. One wonders why the messiah would not lead a revolution against the authorities who appear to be the cause of the hardship of the time. The people want to know the source of their predicaments and a possible solution. John the Baptist prior to his arrest was no beloved of the priests of the temple nor they of him. He ran into the desert where he simultaneously preached repentance from sin and criticism of the royal family of Herod and the Priests of the Temple. The Jewish leaders tell the people that it is the Roman occupation of Israel of which a revolution is a possible remedy. On his part, Jesus Christ tells the people that it is their sins that is responsible for the present hardship of which a change of heart and membership of the Kingdom of God are the solutions.
The kingdom of God is a gathering of the faithful people of God initiated through baptism into a new life in Christ. It is a kingdom of non-violence. Through baptism, Jesus Christ nips in the bud the very stock responsible for evil in the world, namely human violence. Jesus Christ understands that our earthly crisis is caused by our uncontrolled violent nature. The grace of baptism enables the Christian to control this violent nature. The kingdom of God creates an enabling environment for non-violence. The humble beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth saw his appointment of men of humble background as the pioneer members. With these men he called apostles, he will go about the whole of whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.
The kingdom of God teaches us two important lessons. First, human violence is responsible for crisis in the world. Secondly, the solution to any crisis must begin with the self. This is why he tells the people: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ Blaming others in moments of crisis will only add to the crisis. Human violence is an inferno that consumes anything in its way. Violence is a vicious circle that is broken through non-participation. In the second reading, St. Paul identified the destructive impact of the various slogans that the people have, like: ‘I am for Paul’, ‘I am for Apollos’, ‘I am for Cephas’, ‘I am for Christ.’ Then he asks: Has Christ been parcelled out? Was it Paul that was crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? The kingdom of God teaches non-violence through repentance and renunciation of the will to violence.
Anthony Ekpunobi, CM.