3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
When Jesus the Messiah began his public ministry, he did something unexpected. Instead of centering his ministry in Jerusalem and Judea to the south, he established his headquarters in the region of Galilee far to the north, in the ancient tribal regions of Zebulun and Napthali. This area was part of the old northern kingdom, long since conquered by the Assyrians, who scattered the ten “lost tribes” of Israel. At the time of Jesus it was a mix of pagan gentile peoples, and small colonies of Jewish settlements.
This Gospel reading is very apropos today. As in the time of Jesus, we live in small parish colonies in the midst of a gentile society given over to pagan ways. At one time our land too was more Christian in its values and laws, but that ancient Christian heritage has been banished and exiled. Now our land too has fallen into darkness and become overshadowed by death.
Evil can only take place in darkness, when there is denial and lies. Evil always tries to present itself as something acceptable and even good, and will try justify itself by any means, but in the end when the veil is lifted and it is seen directly for what it is, the result is always found to be tragedy, harm, suffering, and death. The same serpent who promised Adam and Eve life and delivered death, seduces society today with false promises of freedom, ease, and convenience, but delivers instead the darkness of death: being cut off from God.
The Gospel is a Gospel of the dignity of life. We just completed the season of Christmas in which we proclaim the Incarnation, how God became man. When did God become man? At the time of the nativity when he was born? Or at the moment of conception when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to be with child? In what way would it be conceivable, to imagine even for an instant, that the Blessed Virgin Mary or St. Joseph, had some kind of right or freedom, or justification, to terminate her pregnancy?
“The people sit in darkness… and dwell in a land overshadowed by death.” When Jesus came into that region, he began to preach saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Today the Church must continue the work of the Jesus, which is to bring light in the darkness. And the Church must do what Jesus did, which is Preach and Heal.
We must Preach the truth and issue the call to repentance. With regard to the sin of abortion, the Church does so forcefully, and attaches the penalty of excommunication to any Catholic who would procure an abortion, or assist with its procurement. Excommunication is the Church’s ultimate call to repentance. Abortion is not just a mortal sin, it is the crime of murder. It destroys the family and society, and it destroys the person who commits the crime. It requires deep repentance and conversion, and healing which only Christ can bring.
Revelation (Rv 12:4) depicts the devil as a great dragon who attacks the woman, seeking to devour her unborn child. When Jesus preached and healed, he expelled the demons. The Church today, by the power of the Gospel and the healing ministry of confession, has Christ’s power to expel demons, and establish God’s Kingdom. It is a great spiritual battle, and one we all share.
Mary is the Woman whose offspring will crush the serpent. We, united with Christ, are her children, and we share, with her, that mission. Let us invoke our Blessed Mother as we seek to fulfill this mission Christ gives us today: to bring light to those who dwell in darkness, and to a land overshadowed by death.