Is 9:1-4; 1Cor 1:10-13,17; Matt 4:12-23
A LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARK
The Sundays of Ordinary Time lead us through the THREE YEARS of Christ’s public ministry. We began last week with his identification as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist and this week we hear how he called the Apostles to follow him. Next week we will start to hear the most important segment of his teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount. In the Gospel chosen for today we hear how Jesus begins by taking up residence in Capernaum, then how he identifies himself as the Light to the Nations as foretold by the Prophet Isaiah. It goes on to show him choosing his first Apostles. Then the passage concludes by telling us how he went around the whole of Galilee teaching and healing all people.
- JESUS IS THE LIGHT
We are reminded today that when “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom” (Mt. 4:23), he proclaimed himself as the LIGHT. The Prophet Isaiah declares in the 1st Reading: “The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light. On those who dwelled in the land and shadow of death a light dawned.” (Is. 9:2) Similar words are found in the Gospel of John where it is stated, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as A WITNESS TO TESTIFY TO THE LIGHT, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to TESTIFY TO THE LIGHT. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; YET THE WORLD DID NOT KNOW HIM.” (Jn. 1:6- 11)
Speaking to His followers later, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (Jn. 8:12)
In the First Letter of John, we find a summary of the mission of the Lord Jesus as the Light of the world. “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn. 1:5-7)
In Matthew’s view, in accordance with scripture, the coming of Jesus and the impact of his mission, Jesus is the light, not just for one individual, but for a whole people, in fact for the whole world. Naturally, LIGHT CHASES DARKNESS AWAY.
- DARKNESS COVERS FOR EVIL
Let us explain, therefore, the meaning of light, through the use of its opposite: DARKNESS. What is darkness? It is a privation; it does not exist in itself. It is a sign that there is something lacking which was supposed to be there. What is absent is light. DARKNESS IS THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT. Darkness is a great cover for evil, whereas light naturally scares away evil and evil-doers. Listening to the preaching of Jesus, therefore, we are called to leave our shady deals and walk in the light of Christ.
Now, ask the following to the congregation:
– At what time do thieves prefer to make their raids? (Under cover of darkness!)
– At what time do banger-smokers gather in abandoned buildings? (In darkness!)
– At what time do adulterers go to their ‘deuxiem bureaux’? (In darkness!)
– At what time do students break bounds in boarding colleges? (In darkness!)
– At what angle do police men and others take bribes? (In shady corners)
– Story of children eating in the dark and lights go off, and one dashes for the meat.
– Even the animals also know when it is convenient to come and steal, lest the light exposes them and they are caught? — The rat-mole, the cockroach, your neigbhour’s pig, the mosquito? You see, DARKNESS IS A GOOD COVER FOR EVIL.
- THE MEANING OF DARKNESS
Jesus comes to dispel this darkness. Darkness can stand for many things:
- a) Darkness stands for sin: Christ preached repentance from sin, at the wake of his arrival. He wanted his admirers to follow the light by being conscious of their broken state of life. However, though the light comes as a friend, to an extent it is also seen as an intruder. “The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (Jn 3:19-20) Light shows up what is wrong and demands that we do something about it. As an intruder, the light of Christ is often rejected by many of us. It is too bright. It opens up our weaknesses. We bluntly reject this light especially when it comes to acknowledging our sins and approaching the sacrament of confession. How many of us have stayed for months/years without ever having the humility and courage to go to confession? There, Christ the light, and preacher of repentance, has given us the ordinary means to cleanse ourselves from sin. But we reject it in favour of polemics and idle argumentation about the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister, the priest, who sits there in the confession. “The WORD came and lived among us, and his own did not recognize him” (Jn 1:16)
- b) Darkness stands for fear: The darkness which Christ dispels stands also for Like little children darkness scares us. We FEAR: illness, pain, error, loneliness, despair, oppression, and so on. Such darkness touches the lives of all. Hence, our need of the light of Christ. There is much fear in our world today. There are the awful fears that sickness brings. Fear of death. The fear of silence. The fear of witchcraft. Fear of the unknown, especially in the politically unstable Cameroon of today. Fear of being abandoned by a husband/wife or children. Fear of a disappointed love. The fear of others and what they can do to harm us. The fear that one will not be able to meet one’s responsibilities — in examination, in payment of rents, school fees, or a blank school year, etc. Perhaps, fear losing one’s job etc.
And when fears like these come to you and me, what do we do? At times, we seek assistance from other knowledgeable persons. But some people go off to drink. Or, they take one or two more of those tablets (drugs) that bring calm for a while. Some try to bury our fear with much activity, running here and there. Today’s responsorial Psalm reminds us of the first and obvious place or person to turn to when faced with the darkness of FEAR: “THE LORD IS MY LIGHT AND MY HELP.” (Recite!)t
- c) Darkness covers ignorance: Jesus is the WORD that became INCARNATE (He been Take man skin). He is Immanuel, “God-with-us”. He has come that we may know God, who is “the way, the truth and the life” and there “have life to the full” (Jn 10:10). Out of ignorance and “over Know”, the Christians of Corinth lived in disunity. Paul addresses that ignorance in the 2nd Reading of today.
The problem in Corinth (as narrated by the 2nd Reading of today) is still the problem of 21st century Christianity. Unity has been difficult to achieve and no one knows whether it will ever be achieved. (THAT IS WHY THE CHURCH CALLS FOR PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY every year, from 18 to 25 January). Sometimes, members of churches ‘fight’ against one another as if from opposing armies. This problem exists even at the level of individuals and families. Think of those members of your family, or friends who separate themselves from you because they now claim to be “born again.” They indulge in name-calling. Hence, we hear such appellations: “FULL GOSPEL Church” – others profess the INCOMPLETE Gospel; DEEPER LIFE—others have SHALLOW LIVES; TRUE CHURCH of Christ – others are of the FALSE CHURCHES, etc. As far as Paul is concerned, those who walk in the LIGHT “belong to Christ”, not to the various churches owned by “powerful men of God”. Remember these words of Paul: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” In the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi, the true Christian, who has assimilated the teaching of Paul today is the one who has adopted this prayer of peace as his or her working template: Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is error, truth; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy. These should be the defining ideals of a true Christian believer!
- WE ARE CALLED TO BE MESSENGERS OF LIGHT
Finally, in order to fight DARKNESS, we need MESSENGERS OF LIGHT, persons who are ready to commit themselves to that cause. For this reason, Jesus selects his APOSTLES, who will spread the light to all parts of the world. All of us sitting in this church today are those new apostles of our time. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden”. (Mtt 5:15). We are called to imitate Jesus, the light of the world. “Whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (Jn 3:21) “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mtt 5:16).
Like Peter and Andrew, James and John and others we are all called. Jesus orders us to “Follow him” and to become henceforth, ‘fishers of men’ (Matt 4:12-23). As his followers, we are expected to continue His work of salvation whether people like us or not.
- FOLLOW ME
The summons to each of us is: “FOLLOW ME.” Like those apostles of old, Jesus does not ask us “TO LIKE HIM” or even simply to be his Students. He calls us to LEAVE EVERYTHING AND FOLLOW HIM. We tend to use those words rather superficially. To follow Jesus and to be the light includes several things:
- a) First, it means obedience. Following Jesus means going where He goes and doing what He tells you to do. It is not something you can do from a distance. The words “follow me” are an imperative, a command—which is why those commanded to follow Jesus did in fact immediately leave their nets, boats, counting tables, or whatever else was occupying them and followed Jesus.
Without obedience there is no genuine Christianity.
- b) Following Jesus involves making a clean break with your old way of life. You cannot follow Jesus and still pursue the values of the world. It is a commitment to a new way of life. There must be a real break with the way we used to be.
- c) It involves submission. It means acknowledging Jesus as the Lord of one’s life; he is the King of our lives. One cannot call Jesus “Lord” and give no attention to what He says.
- d) It involves perseverance. Following Jesus is not only a door to be entered, but a path to be followed, and the true disciple proves the reality of his discipleship by following that path to the end.
The point behind all of this is that Jesus is not asking to be a “friend” on our Facebook page. He is not asking you to consider Him a person of great influence. Jesus has called us not to be His FANS but to be His followers.
- “I WILL MAKE YOU FISHERS OF MEN”
After commanding them to follow him, Jesus promises these men to make them fishers of men. By light that we bring into the world, we are capable of winning people for Christ. According to William Barclay, the famous Bible commentator, in his commentary about this gospel passage of St. Matthew, a good fisherman possesses the very qualities that Jesus wants for those who would become “fishers of men”.
- a) A fisherman has patience. He learns to wait patiently until the fish will take the bait. If he is restless and quick to move, he will never make a fisherman. The good fisher of men would have to possess patience. Preaching or teaching rarely seeks quick results. The good fisher of men must learn to wait.
- b) He must have perseverance. A fisherman learns not to be discouraged but always to try again. The good teacher and preacher must not be discouraged when nothing seems to happen. He must be always ready to try again.
- c) He must be courageous. A fisherman must be ready to risk and to face the fury of the sea and of the storm. Similarly, the good preacher and teacher must be well aware that there is always a danger in telling human beings the truth. The person who tells the truth more often than not takes his reputation and his life in his hands.
- d) A wise fisherman has an eye for the right moment. He knows well that there are times when it is hopeless to fish. He knows when to cast and when not to cast the net. The good teacher and preacher choose his/her moment. There are times when people will welcome the truth. There are times when truth will move them and times when the truth will harden them in their opposition to the truth. The wise preacher knows that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent.
- e) A fisherman knows how to fit the bait to the fish. One fish will rise to one bait and another to the other. The wise preacher and teacher know that the same approach will not win all people. He/she may even have to know and recognize his/her own limitations. He/she may have to discover that there are certain spheres in which he/she can work and others in which he cannot.
- f) The wise fisherman must keep himself out of sight. If he obtrudes (imposes in an obstructive manner) his own presence, even his own shadow, the fish will very certainly not bite. The wise preacher and teacher will always seek to present people not with himself/herself but with Jesus Christ. His/her aim is to fix people’s eyes, not on him/herself but on the figure beyond—Jesus.
May Jesus, the light of the world, brighten our lives, so that we may bring light and peace to our world! Happy Sunday!