THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The Greatness of Tolerance
First Reading ( Is 8:23-9:3) : God spread grace throughout Galilee
Second Reading (1Cor 1:10-13,17 ) : Be united in mind and heart, do not be divided
Gospel ( Mt 4:12-23) : Jesus preached throughout Galilee.
“The sea collects hundreds of rivers, Its capacity is great; The mountain cliffs stand a thousand feet, Without desire one is strong.” (1)
Paul said to the Corinthians : Brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I beg you to be of one mind and heart. “There should be no divisions among you, but you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. Each of you say, ‘I belong to Apollos’ or ‘I belong to Cephas’ Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? In truth Christ did not send me to baptize only but to proclaim the gospel, to proclaim Christ who was crucified. Only he is the Messiah, I am not nor Apollos. There should be no divisions among you. ( cf.1 Cor :10-13,17 )
In this world we like to draw small circles. Each one prefers his/her own small group, each organization has it own small grouping. Some draw a line according to differentces of religion, some by the colour of one's skin, some by the nationality. Sometimes even smaller groupings are set up within an exclusive group . For example in the Church we are divided into many religious communities and parishes. Within one parish there are various associations, as the Legion of Mary, Children of Mary, Blessed Sacrament Society, Basic Christian Communities, etc.
From this point of view, even though the Church may not be divided, still problems arise to cause one's head to ache. Some parish priests do complain that at times parish organizations do not support a general parish activities because each group is involved in its own activities. This is what we mean by ‘cliques.’
There are many small groupings in the world. Actually God also has an ‘exclusive circle’. But God's circle is drawn according to the shape of the sky and the universe. God's ‘circle’ embraces the whole world, the universe. In other words, there is only one group in God's heart, one that holds all groups, large and small.
Let us think of this more carefully. Why do I want to draw a line separating you from me? Perhaps it is an issue of jealousy. We fear others' achievements may affect me.
The Prophet Isaiah has some inspiring words, ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.’ (Is 9 : 1) This verse is quoted by Matthew in this Sunday's Gospel ‘When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’ (Mt 4:12-16)
The ‘great light’ refers to the bright light that shines from the sun in the middle of the day. It lights up the entire world. Will the sun rays I see make others see less ? Similarly, when others enjoy the sunshine, will it make us enjoy it less? No. Because the light is so great and without limit.
We must let ourselves stay in touch with that boundlessness, the enriching and great things in life, let ourselves stay in touch with God who can embrace everything. When we are in contact with God who can accept all people and all things, our hearts grow so much bigger we no longer need exclusive circles.
Let us look up at the beautiful starry night sky. The star-lit sky is so brightened by each and every star that shines so brightly, they make the entire sky starry bright. Be they big or small, the stars all shine through and light up the sky as much as possible. No individual star undermines the brightness of other stars when they shine, nor will any one star be ashamed or shy for being not bright enough. The sky is just as beautiful when each and every star lit up the sky together. Even the shooting stars can do their part in brightening up the sky so beautifully with its tail of light even when they are falling.
Why does not our world shine like the bright sky? Why does not our Church shine more? Within a small family why can two brothers still be jealous of each other? Why can two good friends become enemies just because one is more appreciated by a superior? Why was Cain jealous of Abel? Does the success of another mean our own failure?
We should not break into small groups any longer. We should no longer say we belong to this Church or that parish, this nation or that race. We are all members of the same body, members of the same family, brothers and sisters under the care of the same Heavenly Father, citizens of the same global village. Whether it be the first, second or even a shooting star, each star has its own unique brightness and adds to the entire night even more beauty.
What the world needs today is tolerance, a mind open and broad enough to tolerate everything. Any thing that excludes other ideologies, whether religious or political, and causes people to be self-centered and self-opinionated, is not in accord with the thinking of the world today which so longs for a spirit of unity and that all be united in one family.
Mr. Lin Ze Xu said, “The sea collects hundreds of rivers, Its capacity is great; The mountain cliffs stands a thousand feet, Without desire one is strong.”(1) The big sea is “big” because it has the capacity to take in hundreds and millions of rivers. Only with a great capacity to accept other people can a man become a great man.
Lord God, please help us to have a heart that is great like yours so that we may be able to accept, embrace and appreciate all things and people.