Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
MT 4:12-23 OR 4:12-17
January 26, 2020
I was in a meeting with a group of parishioners to plan upcoming liturgies. The recently ordained associate pastor was also present. I began by talking about the “Table of the Word” and the “Communion Table.” My young friend interrupted, and with a note of correction in his voice, said: “Altar.”
I patiently resumed my presentation, and once again mentioned the “Table of the Word” and the “Communion Table.” Once again, I was corrected with a single word, this time spoken with a bit more emphasis: “ALTAR!”
I continued with my thoughts, which required a further reference to the “Table of the Word” and the “Communion Table.” You guessed it! He chirped up again, this time allowing the slightest bit of impatience as he spoke the single word: “ALTAR!”
I shot him “the look” which I hope no one else noticed, but I know that he saw, because he was quiet for the rest of the evening. At that point I said: “Fr. we don’t want these folks to be confused, so I think we’re going to have to give a little bit of an explanation as to why you keep interrupting me.”
I went on to explain to the gathering that the names we give to liturgical furniture speak to their sacramental purpose and are very important. By referring to “the Altar” the younger priest was inviting people to Calvary, where The Lamb of God…the Agnus Dei…was sacrificed on The Altar of The Cross. Jesus was the perfect offering…the only sin offering capable of redeeming the world. Offerings are made on altars. And so my young friend is correct.
Nevertheless, the Lord instituted the Eucharist at the last Passover meal that He celebrated with the Apostles and disciples. Accordingly, when we speak of “The Communion Table” we are inviting the faithful to take a place at the Lord’s Supper…and to hear Him speak those words that have echoed across the centuries: DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME!
Far more than an invitation Jesus has given us a command to come to “The Table.”
So in reality that piece of liturgical furniture that is the center and focal point of every Eucharist is both Table and Altar. And we know this because of that piece of furniture that stands beside it supporting God’s Eternal Word. It is the proclamations made from “The Table of The Word” that give meaning and purpose to what we are about when we gather around The Communion Table/Altar.
God tells us: Pay attention and come to me; listen, that you may have life. (Isaiah 55:3) And so Pope Francis has named this 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time WORD OF GOD SUNDAY. In choosing to do so, the Holy Father has directed our attention towards that piece of liturgical furniture that supports Sacred Scripture, so that we Roman Catholics may deepen our appreciation for the Living Word of God. He is encouraging us to pay closer attention to what is being proclaimed, so that we might have life.
So here’s a question that is easily answered. What do you call the piece of furniture in your home where Sacred Scripture rests? Is it a shelf in the closet that’s not often used? Is it the bottom drawer of a dresser in a spare bedroom? Do you even remember where your Bible is? Do you even have a Bible in your home?
On this first “Word of God Sunday”, we are reminded of the enormous importance of Sacred Scripture. It is an excellent opportunity to place a “Table of The Word” in a prominent place in your own home. And each time you pass by it, remember God’s invitation/command…. Pay attention and come to me; listen, that you may have life.