Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isiah 8:23-9; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; Matthew 4:12-23
Saint John Baptist de la Salle/Saint Stephen January 22, 2023
The image of light continues in this Sunday's readings. Last week, Joseph Rankin, one of our parishioners, sent me a picture taken in the early morning hours at our Church that helped illustrate the majesty of light. I can't show you the picture during this homily, but I have had it posted on our website. The Light of God cannot be captured in a photo or in a description; such majesty must be experienced in person. Likewise, the Light of Christ, Jesus the Lamb of God, introduces a relationship that must be experienced if Jesus' divine presence is to bring about change in our lives. In this week's readings, we heard of a "great light like the dawn" that dispels the darkness covering the land. This image of darkness and light has great spiritual meaning. The contrast is the hearing of God's Word, not understanding it or dismissing it, and failing to put it into practice. While Jesus represents the dawn rising over a dark land, it is his disciples, his followers, who must continue that mission. Darkness, then, represents a place where the mission is lost and God is misinterpreted. Isaiah begins the image: "upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown." The psalmist also speaks of "living without fear" so long as one walks with the light: "The Lord is my light and my salvation," reads the psalm, "whom shall I fear?" A thousand years later, Matthew takes this image and applies it to the Christ: "On those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen."
Today, the beginning of Jesus' ministry in Galilee is like the dawn rising over the hills. The growing light of day is Jesus' physical presence in an actual region. He walks with people, sits with them, eats with them, and lives in their communities. This is what the light means to the disciples, those Jesus calls to follow him. The disciples observe the divine light through the specific acts of teaching, proclamation, and healing. Matthew writes: "He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people." Like today's Psalm says, "we live in the land of the living," who follow the light and foster a community of learning and teaching. The Light of Christ becomes a beacon to all when those who follow Jesus proclaim his message by the way they act and behave. When, as Christ's disciples, we draw near to the misery and suffering of the world, we extend the healing touch of Jesus to others. The dawn of Christ's Light becomes visible there among them. This Sunday, we are invited to walk in the dawn of a new light. Like those first followers of Jesus, as we continue to observe and discern Jesus' specific actions and words, we can catch glimpses of the light. That Light is what leads us into the land of the living.