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This Sunday’s Gospel reading — the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A — sums up the mission of Jesus in three actions.
“He went around all of Galilee,” it says:
1) “teaching in their synagogues,
2) “proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom” and
3) “curing every disease and illness among the people.”
This is exactly what we are called to do today. Think of different ways you could express this three-point mission of Jesus.
He was involved in 1) catechesis, 2) evangelization and 3) service to the needy.
He served in 1) the “parish,” 2) the world and “all around Galilee” and 3) with the poor and helpless.
He reached out to 1) churchgoers, 2) the unconvinced and 3) the homebound.
It’s important to note what these three things have in common, too.
All three of them involve showing people where God is. He can be found 1) in the word of God, 2) in our daily life and 3) in the sufferings that we face.
They are also three forms of teaching: 1) the lecture method, 2) testimony of the Good News and 3) modeling through action.
All three of them also show that God wants us to be happy. He wants to alleviate 1) our moral suffering, 2) our emotional suffering and 3) our physical suffering.
Jesus puts the whole thing in context by referencing today’s first reading from Isaiah about how, in his coming “the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light.”
Says Isaiah: “You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed.”
Why do the people rejoice? Because they have been enlightened, they have been fed, they have been freed — which are names for the same three tasks.
Paul echoes these same tasks when he lists what Jesus Christ sent him to do: “to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.” He too has been sent, to enlighten, feed and free.
So have we. Consider the applications these tasks have to our lives.
We should pray, discuss and act — 1) meet him one on one in prayer, 2) encounter his Gospel with and through others and 3) meet him in service to the needs of those who are suffering.
He should be in our minds, in our hearts and in our “hands” — 1) in what we learn, 2) in what we share and 3) in what we do for others.
We should pray, sacrifice and give alms: 1) spend time with Jesus in the Gospels and the sacrament, 2) put ourselves out for others and 3) put ourselves at the service of others.
“There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church,” said Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). The three aspects of the mission he mentions should be no surprise: “the tasks of charity, catechesis and the celebration of the faith.”
Serving the needy, helping the parish, extending the Kingdom.
They were Jesus’ tasks of love — and now they are ours.
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