Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020  – The Incarnation


Although we have moved beyond the Christmas season, we are getting scriptural reminders this month of the mystery of the Incarnation. Today’s Mass includes the beautiful words from the prophet Isaiah: The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.

The verse immediately following today’s first reading announces that a son has been born for us. We also get a repetition of those words in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew. The evangelist uses the excerpt from Isaiah to show how Jesus’ return to Galilee to begin his public ministry is in keeping with the prophecies.

That ministry is summarized: He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing all kinds of disease and illness among the people.

This all serves as a helpful reminder that the power and beauty of the Incarnation is a continuous need in our lives.

Ever since I first experienced the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, I have been helped by his exercise on the Incarnation.

It has a wonderful threefold structure: the three Divine Persons gazing on the whole surface of the earth; the actual diversity of the women and men on the face of the earth; and the image of Our Lady and the angel greeting her.

Ignatius expands on each of those three elements, guiding our imaginations as to what is being said and done by the various players. That education in the use of the imagination is invaluable as we continue reflecting on both the hidden life (in Nazareth) and public ministry of Jesus.

The grace offered in this exercise is central to the invitation to us to share in the Incarnation. Here it will be to ask for an interior knowledge of Our Lord, who became human for me, that I may love him more intensely and follow him more closely.

Other parts of our scripture today strengthen our sharing in the work of the Incarnation. The Gospel includes Matthew’s account of the call of the first four disciples.

The work of participating in the proclamation of Jesus shifts from being the responsibility of special individuals such as John the Baptist and Jesus himself, to being shared with the earliest companions of Jesus. They share in that grace of an interior knowledge lived in a following of Jesus.

The reading from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians heightens an aspect of the reality of the Incarnation, namely the divisions in the Christian community. They were present in the earliest church and they are still with us today. Paul offers an important reminder.

We don’t belong to Paul or Apollos. We belong to Christ!  We don’t belong to Benedict XVI or Francis. We belong to Christ!

Perhaps our reading of the Catholic press should be accompanied by reading the Acts of the Apostles. We would discover that there is nothing new under the sun regarding church politics and the desire for peace and unity.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 12:53h, 26 January Reply

    Thank you Philip!

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