Deacon Michael Tan’s Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Deacon Michael Tan, 2 February 2022
Deacon Michael Tan. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


This Sunday continues the journey of Jesus from his birth to the beginning of his public ministry.  We find at his birth to a Jewish family, that the non-Jewish Magi, who noticed the star, journeyed from the East to look for him.  This we celebrated at the Feast of the Epiphany.  Thus, the birth of Jesus is for all peoples, Jewish and non-Jewish.  This was followed by the Feast of the baptism of the Lord, when Jesus presented himself to John the Baptist for Baptism as an act of humility, during which heaven opened, and the Father said to the people, ‘You are my Son, the beloved; my favour rests on you.  Finally, we had last Sunday’s Gospel, the marriage feast of Cana, where Jesus revealed himself as the provider of the best wine at the wedding, when Mary his mother noticed that the wedding had run out of wine, and drew this to Jesus’ attention.  Jesus, in noting that his time had not yet come, nevertheless responded with great sensitivity in the first public sign of his ministry, providing the best wine for the people at the wedding.

This Sunday’s Gospel follows this journey from birth to the appearance of the magi to his baptism to the marriage feast of Cana before we find Jesus coming to Nazareth today.  Note that the author of Luke’s Gospel has also written the Acts of the Apostles, where he gives an account of the ministry of the early Church, just as the Gospel gives an account of the ministry of Jesus.  The underlying message is that what Jesus does in his ministry, the apostle and the early church continues to do in their ministry.  There is a unity, a communion between Jesus and the Church – in fact, this is a teaching from the Marriage Feast of Cana last week.  Jesus is the bridegroom who provides the new wine of the kingdom for his bride, the church, and calls the church, in turn, to continue to be of service for the world by providing the new wine of the Kingdom for one and all who come to the feast.

The image of the body can also refer to our individual bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit.  Through baptism, our bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit – all our body parts working together for a healthy body.  Our body is sacred – not to be abused, and as Paul says, not for fornication.  For a well functioning body, our emotions, our thoughts and our attitudes have to work together in order for us to be healthy physically, mentally and spiritually.

One example is the relationship between the heart of the body, and the spine.  The heart expresses our deepest desires and emotions that enables us to appreciate the beauty of God – St. Augustine

Yet, without the spine, our hearts can be vulnerable to impulsiveness, emotional swings and roller coasters.  We need the spine to provide structure and stability to our existence.  Yet, if the spine is too rigid, this can give rise to living by rigid rules and we become a prisoner of our rules, instead of seeing the rules as a rock, a foundation on which we can live our emotional lives safely.

As an example, St. Augustine, the great doctor of the Church,  struggled deeply with this reality.  He had experienced the God of beauty who attracted him.  His prayer was “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

His heart was longing to be at peace, but he struggled to accept the price he would have to pay, to leave his old life of sin behind – “Lord, make me chaste (sexually pure) – but not yet!”  His heart needed the structure of the spine to provide stability and for him to be at peace with God.

In today’s Gospel,  Jesus begins his public ministry by announcing the fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy in the presence of those listening to him – ‘the spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.  He has sent me to bring Good News to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.’

This prophecy speaks of the Lord’s year of favour, where the new wine of the Kingdom that Jesus provided at the Marriage feast of Cana becomes the joy of the Lord, our stronghold through the bringing of Good News to the poor, the proclamation of liberty to captives, new sight to the blind,  and freedom from their burdens for the downtrodden.  The fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy has become reality and has found its fulfillment in Jesus.

This fulfillment is both historical and ongoing.  The prophecy is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, through his life, death resurrection and ascension into Heaven.  It is ongoing in the life of the People of God, empowered by the indwelling of the post-Pentecost coming of the Holy Spirit to continue the real presence of Jesus in the world.  We, the People of God are called today to continue the proclamation this prophecy in today’s world – this is our mission as the Church in the modern world.

Our mission as Church, as the second reading reminds us, relies on us being the body of Christ together.  There are no ‘lone ranger’ Christians.  The Church, the People of God, are disciples who follow Jesus together.    We are called to be united, and to live in a communion of discipleship so that we can give united witness to Jesus our Lord in today’s world.    Christ has no body but ours, and the image of the body, with its many parts speaks to us of the importance of being united, and in communion with one another within the body of Christ.

Communion is not merely consensus.  As Ash Wednesday starts peeping over the horizon, let us remember that we do not want the consensus of the crowd that shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’  Instead, we want the communion of being one with Jesus, the vine of whom we are the branches.

This week is the 2022 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18 to 15 January 2022).  During this week, all Christians are invited to pray for unity and to journey together synodally as brothers and sisters united to Jesus, the Lord.  The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity also reminds us that our communion is not perfect,  and that we need to build bridges with other Christian denominations as well as with the Orthodox tradition.

In a letter sent to all bishops responsible for ecumenism, the President of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity and the General secretary of the Synod of bishops have noted that “both synodality and ecumenism are processes of walking together.  Since ecumenism can be understood as an ‘exchange of gifts,’ one of the gifts Catholics can receive from other Christians is precisely their experience and understanding of synodality.”

In this ‘exchange of gifts,’ we are reminded of the journey of the Magi to find the infant Jesus that we celebrated at the Epiphany 3 weeks ago.    Like the Magi, Christians “too journey together (synodos) guided by the same heavenly light and encountering the same worldly darkness.  Christians are called to worship Jesus together and to open their treasures to Jesus.  Conscious of our need for the accompaniment and the many gifts of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we call on them to journey with us during these years and we sincerely hope that ‘opening our treasures’ we will be able to share the gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed on the various Christian communities which are meant for the up-building and unity of all.”

A concrete example of the need for unity in our mission as Christians is the needs of Tonga, after the devastating volcano eruption.  Clearly, we cannot reach out to help and bring relief to the Tongans community alone and by ourselves individually, and even as individual Governments,  Corporates and Aid Agencies.  We have to reach out as a Unity of peoples and agencies that respond to the call to reach out to a people in need.  Here, the call to mission together as Christians is an urgent call to give united witness to Jesus as His Body, with its many parts all working together for a common good.

The letter to all bishops offers this prayer for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity –

Heavenly Father,
as the Magi journeyed towards Bethlehem led by the star,
so by your heavenly light,
guide the Catholic Church to walk together with all Christians during this time of synod.

As the Magi were united in their worship of Christ
lead us closer to your Son and so to one another,
so that we become a sign of the unity that you desire for your Church and the whole creation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Deacon Michael Tan is a member of the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Parramatta and serves the parish community of St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst.


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