THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME — Year C

*Alternate* First Reading: Diana Butler Bass reflection excerpt

An excerpt from a reflection by Diane Butler Bass

“Today” is a deeply dangerous spiritual reality—because today insists that we lay aside both our memories and our dreams to embrace fully the moment of now. The past romanticizes the work of our ancestors; the future scans the horizons of our descendants and depends upon them to fix everything. But “today” places us in the midst of the sacred drama, reminding us that we are actors and agents in God’s desire for the world. “Today” is the most radical thing Jesus ever said.

Jesus essentially told his friends, “Look around. See the Spirit of God at work, right here. Right now. God is with us. Just as I AM promised our father Moses at the burning bush, ‘I will be with you.’ This is the sign of God’s covenant. The ever active, ever loving, ever liberating, always present God is here with us. Now.”

In effect, Jesus is asking his friends to open their eyes, to see the burning bush, to become more attentive to God’s promise to abide with Israel in the land, and that God is keeping God’s promise, no matter how awful the outward circumstances. This is not a call toward quiescence—meditate and everything else will go away. Instead, it is a call to see more deeply, past the immediate sin, injustice, trials, and evils of human life to the profound reality of love and compassion upon which everything else truly rests: The love of God and neighbor. If we can see, experience, and grasp that the active force of love is at work in the world now, our fear recedes, our hatreds melt, our willingness to murder and kill and seek revenge flows away with the tide, and we can recognize that in the midst of all things—even in the worst oppression—God is with us. Through our delusions of domination, the clarity of grace, mercy, and justice make themselves known to us. And that transforms fear into compassion, giving us the power to walk in the way of love God intended.

In a very real way, the Spirit was upon Jesus. But it was also upon his friends and neighbors, too. For Jesus was one of them. And by emphasizing the word “today,” Jesus transformed Isaiah’s words, Isaiah’s prophecy, into a powerful invitation for the whole community to act on behalf of God’s justice.

The words of Diana Butler Bass.