3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection by Deacon Tim Sullivan

Today's New Testament reading from Paul and the Gospel selection by Luke are very appropriate when we read the newspaper or watch the news at night. We have a terrible division in our country now, obviously disregarding Scripture. Paul makes the comparison between the body of the Church and our human bodies. In order for our human bodies to function in a healthy way, each part has to be intact. The various parts of the body are individually and collectively needed.

For the Church (and society in general) to be healthy, there must be a recognition of all the members of that body. Symptoms of sickness in our physical bodies, the body of the Church and in society are division and a lack of appreciation of members of the body. In today’s second reading from Corinthians Paul states, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?”

Obviously, the answer to the questions that he asks is no. Although it is no, each is needed for a healthy Church body.

Think about our secular society, what if all were electrical engineers or all were bureaucrats or all surgeons or all lawyers. Society would be unbalanced because not everyone is cut out or qualified for just one type of job or a vocation equally. For both Church purposes and secular purposes, each of us has a specific talent or gift. Secular-wise that’s why we have lawyers, plumbers, technicians, scientists, doctors, and factory workers. All work in tandem with each other to have a smoothly running society. The same for the Church. Not all are called to Holy Orders. Imagine a Church comprised only of clergy with no laymen or volunteers to work hard daily to promote the mission of Christ on earth.

In the Gospel reading we find Jesus in the synagogue on the Lord’s day. Elders would take turns reading Scripture.  Jesus got up and read from the Prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” When he finished he said, in effect, that passage related directly to him.

I wonder what Christ thinks today. I wonder if he would agree that certain people are illegal (which seems kind of incongruous since in Genesis we read that God made man and woman in his image and likeness) and therefore not worthy of respect and Christian treatment. Treating people as Christ would seems to be at odds with our present course of turning our backs on those fleeing violence, persecution and death, locking children up as if they were stray animals, locked away ostensibly to protect the “right” kind of people. In turning our backs, we are doing is ultimately denying the so-called “illegals” their God ordained status of being the pinnacle of creation, worthy of human dignity including all men, women, and children.

In the Gospel today, Jesus came to bring glad tidings to the poor to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. If Christ came back today, I wonder how many people would be comfortable debating the refugee and immigrant “problem” (I prefer situation) with him. We have short memories. There are many out there (including this deacon) whose relatives were once immigrants and refugees. Personally speaking, my grandparents were immigrants from Ireland. Other relatives—aunts and uncles—came into the United States illegally fleeing persecution by the English Crown who had placed prices on their heads. Their only crime being free Irish and wanting the freedom to practice their Catholic faith. They raised families and every time I interacted with them never thought of them being “illegal human beings.”