u-s-catholic-sunday-reflections

A reflection for the third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Shannon Wimp Schmidt reflects on the readings for January 22, 2023.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year A)

Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3
Psalms 27:1, 4, 13 – 14
1 Corinthians 1:10 – 13, 17
Matthew 4:12 – 23 or 4:12 – 17

Reflection: Bear witness to Christ first

A few months ago, I got into a heated argument on social media with a fellow Catholic. It’s a familiar story in 2023, and it went badly. What started as a comment on a post rolled into a discussion over direct message and it was very clear we would never agree. While both of us loved Jesus and were trying to live our faith in that world, we came to two very different conclusions about how to do it. My instinct after dozens of messages back and forth was to throw up my hands and say, “This person isn’t a real Catholic, otherwise they would think just like me!”

But an irritating question inserted itself in my conscience. Was I focused on loving this person or on being right? Was I seeing another brother or sister in Christ who loves the Lord with the same passion as I do? Or was the descent into the DMs bringing about the division that the apostle Paul so vehemently warns against in this Sunday’s second reading?

If St. Paul wrote to me in 21st century America, he might ask me why I label myself as a certain kind of Catholic. He would remind me who it is that was crucified for my freedom and to whose name I bear witness in the world. He would say that if, in fact, I claim to love Jesus, I cannot create division and sow discord. I should see that the person making the comments on posts is infinitely more valuable than any argument I had against their conclusions—though, truth be told, St. Paul did love a good argument.

Jesus issues that same call to conversion in the gospel reading. His clarion call to repent points to the joyful tableau painted by the prophet Isaiah in the first reading. This new reality is one which relieves burdens, dispels gloom, and enlivens the heart. Christ’s call promises liberation from what shackles us through the unbridled freedom of the Holy Spirit who is breaking into the world. It is a new and revolutionary reality in which we can live, if we repent and respond with a complete reorientation of our lives.

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And that reorientation is one which sees each individual person as the object of God’s saving work in the world. When Jesus calls Peter and Andrew he does not call them to an ideology or a political party, he calls them to fish for human beings. To love Jesus, to follow him, to join in the work of his kingdom, is to seek after people, to love people, and to put people above everything else. 

And that is my challenge as I reflect on my social media interactions, my family life, and everything else I do: to listen to the irritating and irresistible voice of the Holy Spirit which asks me to love concretely, to place myself second, and bear witness to Christ first, so, as St. Paul says, that his life, death, and resurrection will never be emptied of their meaning.

About the author

Shannon Wimp Schmidt

Shannon Wimp Schmidt is a Parish Vitality Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Chicago, co-host of Plaid Skirts and Basic Black Podcast, and author of the book Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s (Ave Maria Press, 2022). She lives in Chicagoland with her husband, Eric, and their four children. Follow her on Instagram @teamquarterblack and Twitter @teamquarterblk.

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