Sunday Sermon for January 23, 2011, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Is 8:23-9:3; 1Cor 1:10-13, 17; Mt 4:12-23

In the first reading we hear a prophecy from the Prophet Isaiah regarding the lands of Zebulon and Naphtali and how these people who walked in darkness and lived in the land of gloom have seen a great light that brings them abundant joy and great rejoicing. Isaiah goes on to tell us that the yoke that burdened these people, the pole on their shoulder and the rod of their taskmaster will be smashed.

In the Gospel St. Matthew makes the point of telling us that Jesus, the Light of the World, went to live in the town of Capernaum, in the region of Zebulon and Naphtali. We know that in this area our Lord worked the vast majority of His miracles, healed numerous people and cast out many demons from people. In this way the rod of the evil taskmaster has, indeed, been broken and these people were set free.

However, there is a greater freedom than just freedom from illness and infirmity; even greater than just delivered from oppression at enemy hands. This freedom is the freedom that comes from knowing and living the truth. Part of that truth is that our Lord died for us to set us free from the slavery to sin and our bondage to the devil. In baptism these bonds were broken; any subsequent sin is removed in confession.

Our Lord’s death and our freedom that He won for us by His death and resurrection are, as I mentioned, only a part of the truth that will set us free. Our Lord tells us that He is the truth; therefore, the truth that sets us free is the Person of Jesus Christ. This includes everything He did and everything He taught. This teaching has been passed on to us in and through the Church which our Lord founded for this purpose.

There are many people today who profess their faith in Jesus and they strive to live out that faith in their day to day lives. However, many of these people refuse to accept or acknowledge the Church which our Lord Himself founded. Of greater concern, in my opinion, are those people who call themselves Catholic, but still refuse allegiance or obedience to the Church and her teaching.

We have to understand what happens when we refuse to accept and obey the teachings of the Church. First of all, it is a rejection of the truths that Jesus founded the Church and that He gave her the Holy Spirit to lead her into all truth. Second, it is a rejection of the infallibility of the Church which cannot err when it comes to matter of faith and morals. Third, it causes a spiritual schizophrenia because we are member of Jesus through baptism, but we do not act in one mind with Him when we depart from His teaching. Fourth, it causes a division within the Church. Finally, it rejects objective teaching and replaces it with subjective opinion and relativism.

St. Paul, as we see in the second reading, was already addressing the divisions within the Church in the first century. Some claiming to belong to Peter, others to Apollo, other Paul and still others, Jesus; we belong to Jesus. We were purchased by Him at the price of His Blood and we were baptized into Him to share in His life. If, however, we refuse to accept the teachings of the Church, we proclaim our allegiance to someone other than Jesus. The problem, of course, is that there is no other Name given to humanity by which we are to be saved.

People today are living in a darkness of the mind whereby they have not been taught the truth or because they have not believed it when it was taught. We also live in a land of darkness and gloom, killing our own children and heaping sin upon sin. Jesus, the Light, came into the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it. He still shines in our world today through the Church and those who live according to the fullness of truth.

To be Catholic in the full sense of the word means that we accept ALL of the moral and doctrinal teachings of the Church. Remember in John 6, the people did not like the Lord’s teaching on the Eucharist and they walked with Him no longer. Today the Eucharist is still a problem for some; for others it is Mary, confession, Purgatory, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, the Papacy, divorce and remarriage, or any number of other teachings. St. Paul says that we are to be united in the same mind and the same purpose. The mind is enlightened by the truth the Church teaches and the will puts the truth into action so that we walk in the light, loving God and neighbor, with the purpose of getting to Heaven.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit