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By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Homily for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - on the
Home > Homilies > Year A > Sunday 3 Gospel

Is Christ Divided?
Isaiah 9:1-4 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17-18 Matthew 4:12-23

Archeologists working in Corinth have uncovered ancient religious

objects bearing these inscriptions: "I belong to Aphrodite" and "I belong
to Demeter." The making of such confessional slogans and inscriptions
was one of the ways people expressed their faith, devotion and loyalty
to one of the many gods or goddesses of the ancient Greek mystery
religions that were practised in Corinth before Christianity came. It
appears that when these same people became Christians they tried to
express their new Christian faith in the same old way. But this time,
instead of proclaiming their loyalties to the one Lord in whom all
Christians believe, they erroneously directed them to the different
ministers who were instrumental in founding and establishing their
Christian communities. That is how they ended up with the divergent
Christian confessions and claims that we find in today's 2nd reading: "I
belong to Paul," "I belong to Apollos," "I belong to Cephas," "I
belong to Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:12).

First we see that by identifying and defining themselves primarily in

relation to Paul, Apollos and Cephas (Peter), the Corinthians have
raised these notable missionaries who brought them the Christian faith
to the same status as Christ whom they preached. These slogans, no
doubt coming from a sincere desire to express their faith convictions,
nevertheless became a source of rivalry and conflict among them, a
source of division (schism in Greek) and heresy. The Corinthians forgot
the words of Paul: “For we do not preach ourselves; we preach Jesus
Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake”
(2 Corinthians 4:5).

This story of how the one Christian church of Corinth ended up in

fragmentation and polarization can tell us a lot about how the one
universal church founded by Jesus Christ came to become the thousands
and thousands of different confessions we have today, with some
working at cross purposes to others. As in Corinth much of the division
among Christians stems from groups of Christians idolizing their
favourite leaders and putting them in the place of Christ. Of course it is
inevitable that certain Christians would feel more at home with the
dogmatic security of the keys of Peter (Matt 16:10-19), others with the
charismatic liturgy of Paul (1 Corinthians 14:18), and still others with
the pedagogical eloquence and learning of Apollos (Acts 18:24). Unity
is not uniformity. This legitimate expression of diversity, however,
should never lead to division (schism) because, as Paul reminds us,
what unites us as Christians far outweighs whatever it is that divides us
(1 Corinthians 1:13): "Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified
for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

If only all Christian ministers and leaders had the spirituality and
humility of Paul to direct their members to give their unquestioning
allegiance to Christ rather than to themselves! The unity of all
Christians in Christ would be more of a reality than the fleeting dream it
seems to be today.

Did you notice that among the "followings" criticized by Paul in

Corinth was one that had the slogan, "I belong to Christ?" Now why
would anyone criticize such a slogan? After all, the members of this
confession are right and all others are wrong. Yes and no. One may have
the right words and slogans and yet carry on with the same wrong
attitudes of divisiveness and exclusiveness that is characteristic of less
enlightened groups. This was apparently the case in Corinth. To heal the
wounds of the divided body of Christ, right words and slogans are
certainly necessary but they are by no means sufficient. Over and above
the right statements of faith, we need the right attitudes which spring
from a recognition that we all belong to Christ.

What an appropriate reading for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,
January 18-25! This week was purposely chosen as Christian Unity
Week because it brings together the feast of St Peter’s Chair in Rome
(January 18) and that of the Conversion of St Paul (January 25). As we
celebrate these two pillars of the one catholic and apostolic church of
Christ let us resolve, as individuals and as a community, to work to heal
the wounds of division among Christians, for a house divided against
itself cannot stand.
By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - on the
Home > Homilies > Year A > Sunday 3 Epistle

Time to Begin
Isaiah 9:1-4 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17-18 Matthew 4:12-23

Matty, believes he should be a soul winner for Christ. In the parish

Bible class he has learnt how to share his faith with people and lead
them to Christ. But he has never done it. Matty prays to God to give
him a sign so that he would know exactly when to start. One day Matty
is travelling in the subway to meet his Bible study friends. He has his
Bible in his handbag. A young man about his own age enters the train
and sits next to Matty. He wears a T-shirt with the slogan, “ WHO HAS
THE MOST TOYS WINS.” Matty bends his head and says a little prayer,
“Lord give me a sign when to start.” The young man’s cell phone rings.
His friend wants him to come and pick him up. After arguing with his
friend awhile, he says, “All right, I will come to the church and pick
you up, but I will not enter the church. You will find me at the parking
lot,” and hangs up. Matty bends his head a second time and prays,
“Lord, I’m still waiting for the sign!” Finally, the young man turns to
Matty and says, “You know, I got this weird friend who skips work on
Sundays to go to church. I don’t get it.” Matty smiles, bends down his
head once again and says, “Lord, the sign, the sign!” End of story.

Today’s gospel is on Jesus beginning his public work. After living a

private life for more than thirty years, how did Jesus know exactly when
to end the hidden life and begin his public work? Our first thoughts are
to suppose that, of course, God his Father spoke to him and
communicated to him exactly when to begin. He got a special green
light from God. But today’s gospel suggests that Jesus probably arrived
at this decision the way most people do, that is, by inferring from the
things happening in their lives what God is trying to say to them.

Our gospel reading begins, “When Jesus heard that John had been
arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his
home in Capernaum by the sea” (Matthew 4:12-13). Jesus hears that
John has been arrested. He figures that the renewal movement that John
started would be needing a new leader. He looks around and finds that
none is more suited to assume leadership of the movement than he
himself. That’s it. That is all the sign he needs. He says farewell to his
family and moves on to meet the challenges of his public calling.
Unlike Matty in our story, Jesus does not sit there and wait for a special
supernatural sign from above. Rather, Jesus learns to read the “signs of
the times,” that is, to infer from the goings-on in the world around him
what God might be saying of him.

What needs do we see in the world around us? Do you, for example, see
the need for more messengers of God’s love and peace in our world
today? What can you personally do about it, given the personal
circumstances of your life? When are you actually going to start doing
something about it, or are you, like Matty, waiting for a special sign
from God? Well, that sign may never come. We, like Jesus, must learn
to read the “signs of the times” in which we live.

Note that Jesus does not start preaching immediately. If he had started
preaching right away from his home town in Nazareth, they would
probably have silenced him there and then. The first thing he does is to
look for a location and a community that would support his vocation.
He finds it in Capernaum where he quickly attracts a group of friends
and disciples. Even though he is the son of God, Jesus does not work
like a lone ranger. He shares his vision and his ministry with people.
That is why, even though he was stopped and killed just three years
after, they could not stop his work and his vision for a new world of
sisters and brothers. In Jesus we see not only what it means to do God’s
work but also how to do God’s work.

Let us ask God today to give us the wisdom to read the “signs” of our
own times so that we can correctly infer from events in the world
around us what demands God is making of us, as individuals and as a
church. And let us ask for the courage to start doing it, not just praying
about it.