Scripture in Depth
Reading I: Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3
This reading overlaps with the First Reading of the midnight Mass at Christmas. The verses about the birth of the Davidic king are dropped at the end, but the reading starts with the reference to “the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali” and “Galilee of the nations” (or Gentiles).
This passage will be taken up in the gospel of the day, where Matthew introduces it as a formula quotation to mark the beginning of the Galilean ministry. This shows how the same passage is capable of different applications.
Read on Christmas night, it relates to the nativity of Christ; it was then that light dawned in the darkness. Read now, it refers to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
It is with his coming to Galilee and the launching of his proclamation that the light begins to shine. Yet, as we have already remarked, the nativity and the ministry cannot really be separated because both are aspects of the single Christ-event, the coming of light into the darkness of the world.
Responsorial Psalm: 27:1, 4, 13-14
Another arrangement of this psalm is used on the second Sunday of Lent in series C. Here its use is more apt, for it is more suggestive of Epiphany themes.
“The Lord is my light” picks up the light/darkness motif of the first reading, while “the beauty ... and the goodness of the Lord” may naturally be referred to the manifestation of God in Christ.
Reading II:1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17
In the first part of 1 Corinthians, Paul takes up several points that had been reported to him orally by Chloe’s people. He is writing from Ephesus, and it appears that these emissaries of Chloe (one is tempted to speculate that she was a wealthy Christian woman in whose house the Corinthian Christians used to meet) have given the Apostle a verbal report of what was happening at Corinth.
Other reports came in a letter sent by the congregation and delivered by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (1 Cor 7:1; 16:17). So it is interesting to note that some of the more painful questions were passed over in the letter in silence, and Paul got to know of them only through the oral report of Chloe’s people.
The most damaging feature at Corinth was the dissension in the community. There is no indication that this was caused by doctrinal differences, for Paul does not take issue with them on that score. Rather, the Corinthians appear to have split into cliques, each claiming the patronage of one of the great leaders of the Church.
It is not clear whether “I belong to Christ” represents a fourth clique (a sort of non-party party!) or whether this is Paul’s own rejoinder: “I will have no truck with any of your parties. I belong to Christ.”
Paul meets their dissensions head-on by pointing out that they deny the baptismal reality. One is baptized in the name of Christ, not in the name of any human leader, however exalted.
Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23
Matthew begins the ministry of Jesus by summarizing Mark’s “Day in Capernaum.” This is an epitome of the ministry:
Jesus proclaimed the coming of the kingdom; he called disciples and worked miracles of healing. All of this is placed under the rubric of the formula quotation from the ninth chapter of Isaiah (see the First Reading).
By means of this quotation, Matthew, who, despite some exclusivistic sayings such as Mt 10:5, is not himself an exclusivist, underlines the universality of the gospel: it begins, not in Judean territory, but in Galilee of the Gentiles, and is therefore intended for all.
Reginald H. Fuller
**From Saint Louis University