Sunday Sermon for January 22, 2023, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

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

In the second reading, St. Paul urges the people of Corinth, and us through them, that there be no divisions among us.  When we look around at what is happening in our own nation, and around the world, in our own families, and especially to children and babies, it should be clear to everyone that there is an intentional movement to cause division.  This division is in every possible manner they can conceive: racial, economic, “gender,” political, medical (whether you received the COVID shot(s) or not), etc. 

Even within our own Church there are forces trying to cause division.  We have, for instance, the German Bishops who were trying to push for homosexuals to be married, women priests, contraception, and more.  We have divisions between those who attend the traditional Mass and those who attend the new Mass.  We have bishops (and even the Vatican) who reprimand, or even remove, faithful priests while allowing and even encouraging dissident priests.  We also have the division between people who attend “conservative” parishes and those who attend “liberal” parishes.

What all this has done is cause a situation similar to what used to be called “rugged individualism.”  Because of the lack of clarity and leadership, many people have decided they can believe what they want and do what they want.  After all, if the positions espoused by “Fr. Trendy” at the progressive parish are acceptable to the diocesan bishop, and the positions espoused by “Fr. Neanderthal” at the traditional parish are also seen as acceptable, then it leaves the faithful in a place of confusion.  Anything and everything is okay.  That translates to “I can decide for myself what is true or false, what is right or wrong.”

To make matters worse, many diocesan bishops today actively encourage the heterodox teachings while they barely tolerate the priests who teach what the Church has always taught.  Couple this with the absolute failure in catechetics, and we have a Church that is divided in just about every way imaginable.  Understood this way, we can apply what is said in the first reading about the lands of Zebulon and Naphtali: it is a land of gloom and darkness.

Thankfully, as we read in the Gospel, when Jesus went to live in the town of Capernaum, the Light Himself came into these areas that were overshadowed by darkness and gloom.  We are told there was abundant joy and great rejoicing because the yoke and the rod that burdened the people were broken. 

At the time this was written, one might have understood this to mean that the oppression from foreign powers was lifted and the people were free.  However, on the spiritual level, which is how it must be understood, not only has the Light come into the darkness, but the Truth has come into the darkness of our minds and Love Himself has entered into the darkness of our hearts. 

In our country we glory in the freedom we have.  Sadly, we have exchanged freedom for license and, therefore, we are losing our true freedom and becoming more and more enslaved, all the while being told this is good for us.  Perhaps this is just a natural consequence of our spiritual slavery.  Remember, our Lord told us that anyone who sins becomes a slave to sin.  We have chosen falsehood over truth, selfishness over charity, and the glorification of self over the glorification of God.  This has left us empty and confused. 

The darkness of this confusion can be scattered in short order by simply repenting and choosing to become who we were created to be.  This means choosing truth, love, and life because we are created in the image and likeness of God Who is revealed as Truth, Love, and Life.  If we do this, we will all be united.  It does not mean we will all be the same.  For instance, as we hear about the calling of the first Apostles we can think about the whole group of the Twelve.  They were very different in their personalities and in their backgrounds.  However, after being with Jesus, they were all united in mind and heart.

We all must accept the differences in one another, but if we are all united with Jesus, then we will be united with one another.  Jesus is God; He cannot change.  Therefore, there is not one truth for one person and a different truth for another person.  We must all practice charity toward one another.   This is made much easier if we know each person is of good will and desires the same end as we do.  It is time to put aside our petty divisions and strive, as our Lord instructed us, to love God and neighbor.  Our unity must be in Jesus Christ; there is no other!

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