Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2013-14

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture, Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on February 2, 2014

Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A  2013-14

In the readings today we can get a better, deeper understanding of the relationship between the two Testaments and how Jesus remains a Hebrew, true to his Jewish background, but subtly changes the depth, the direction, the distinctiveness of the Law.

We sometimes think that the Hebrew Scriptures don’t have much relevance today. I hear often that the God of that Testament was a vindictive, power-mad God who loved to punish and put humans down. Many in the early church noticed this as well and posited that there were two Gods. We call this the Marcion heresy. And, I don’t doubt there are some stories in the Hebrew Testament that do give that view of the Lord, primarily because God was a reflection of the authors’ own humanness. The truer God is often revealed in the more prayerful parts of the Testament and in the prophetic underpinnings. Today’s reading from Isaiah is a good example. We think, most of us anyway, that Christ changed the message of Scriptures to put an emphasis on the poor and the downtrodden in society. In actuality, there was a long tradition of this in Jewish Scripture. Isaiah speaks in the voice of God – and look at what he says centuries before Christ. God says he wants to “loose the bonds of injustice…let the oppressed go free.” He continues to say that what the Jews should be doing to become a light to the world is to “share… bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into your house”, to “cover” the “naked” and to respect family. Even the psalm today talks about us being lights to the world and mentions specifically the one who has “distributed freely, who has given to the poor.” Does this sound like a vengeful God? Does this sound like Jesus? Of course it does.

Jesus preaches on themes that have long been dominant themes of the great Jewish prophets. Similarly Paul says today to the Corinthians that he preaches so that he might give people faith on the power of God which is different from the wisdom of men and women. There is a long tradition then of justice issues as being very important to God and to the Jewish people.

Similarly there is a long tradition in the use of the images of light throughout Scriptures. We see it in every reading today.

When I teach literature, I ask my students to note that there are certain images that are more than just similes and metaphors, but they are archetypal images in that they have existed in the writings of people from the beginning of time, and are images common to all peoples, all races, all geographical locations. Light and dark are so much a part of our lives that they are good examples of these archetypal images. With the advent of the electrical light sources, I don’t feel that the archetypal image of light is as strong today.  We seldom experience real darkness now. We have night lights in all our bedrooms and have the ability to keep the brightness level of our houses at night as bright as day. It is only when the lights go out, when we lose electrical power today that we become more aware of the intensity of these images. Even then, with battery power, we are not really cast into the dark for very long.

Still, there is something archetypal in the fear of darkness, when we don’t know what’s around the corner, when we can’t see where we are going, when our imaginations create bogeymen under our beds. Even with electric light, we sense some of the danger of darkness, and we long for light.

Isaiah today says that if we feed the hungry and help the afflicted that we ourselves will be like a light to these people who are in darkness because of their gloom and depression, and by giving them our help, the gloom will be as bright as noon day – full sun, full light.

The antiphon to the psalm which unfortunately we had no melodic line for today in our hymnal, says the same thing. “Light rises in the darkness for the upright” and that if we give to the poor our hearts will be lit and will not be afraid. Our Gospel acclamation proclaimed St. John’s words from Jesus: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me shall have the light of life. “

Lastly, in the gospel today we have two small parables or metaphors of Jesus, the second being “You are the light of the world”. And how are we to be lights to the world? – by doing good works, which Jesus defined last week in a Gospel which was not read because of the Feast of the Presentation, but which was Jesus and the Beatitudes, his base philosophy about helping and about justice. We don’t turn a light on and put it under a basket. That would be ridiculous. Similarly, although we don’t flaunt the good things we do – we know that from other teachings of Jesus – we do let ourselves become role models or lights for others in terms of how to act in justice.

So there are two things that I want you to be aware of today and to think about this week and incorporate into your daily lives. The first is that the Scriptures are a continuing work, and that it offers wonderful advise, God’s advise, on how to live our lives fruitfully and righteously. The Christian Testament was built on the foundation of the Hebrew Testament. We will be looking at this in even more depth next week.

Secondly, we need to examine our obligation to be, as Jesus is, a light to the world. One of the main themes I have for this year is our finding ways to go out to others, to show the world our Christian values, to live them and bring others to them. Jesus tells us about one of the ways to do that this week. We need to do good works – works of justice. And we need to let people see these, not for our glorification – but because justice is what it means to be Christian. It is what Christians do. It is what we are about. it is the way we show love to each other and “They’ll Know We Are Christians by our Love”. This is one of the main themes of both Hebrew and Christian scripture, it is what Jesus was all about, and offer this as Good news for you today to take with you and practice so that you can be lights for the world!

Bishop Ron Stephens,  Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese

Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from for $9.99 – Teaching the Church Year”]