Homily (2) 3rd Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Isaiah 8:23–9:3; Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14; 1 Cor 10:10-13, 17 and Matthew 4:12-23
Witness with Joy and Hope in the midst of Invasion
The metaphors of darkness and light run through today’s readings. Of course darkness in biblical theology, and spirituality represents all kinds of misfortunes, woes, and difficulties while light radiates joy, life and salvation. Therefore, a call to witness Christ, our light and salvation, even in the midst of difficulties and marginalization (Psalm 27:1a), seems to be a theme that runs through the readings of today.
Life’s difficulties we know can come in different forms. It can come in form of oppression, marginalization of your group, town, village, or invasion and violation of your faith, right and freedom (Isa 8:2–9:3). It can come in form of divisions (1 Cor 10:10-13, 17). Difficulties can also come our way in form of sins, temptation and illnesses (Matthew 4:12-23). But the question is what are we supposed to do in the midst of these difficulties and setbacks? To hope or to give up hope, to cry or to sing?
In the first reading of today difficulties show up particularly in form of invasion of people’s land, property, right and their freedom to worship. These people were ancient Israelites. They were mocked, insulted marginalized in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali. Their property, freedom and liberty were violated and invaded by the Assyrian under the directive of King Tiglath-pilesser, around 733BC. Zebulunians and Naphtalians were deported to Assyria who claimed their lands and colonized their territory. Ironically, the hymn we heard in the first reading is that of joy and hope of salvation. Light because the Light is on the way. In the words of Isaiah those who walked in the darkness of invasion, deprivation and marginalization will one day see the light of God in the birth of Christ and in the freedom of truth, peace, good health and prosperity that Christ’s Mission will come to bear.
Truly what Isaiah prophesied is fulfilled in today’s Gospel (Matt 4:12-23) where clear reference is made to the once marginalized Zebulun and Naphtali. Jesus is here. The Light is here. He preaches repentance in these cities and evangelizes the surrounding communities of Galilee. He cures the darkness of diseases and sins in these regions. He also attracts vocations to the ministry of preaching and healing from this geographical area. Peter and Andrew, James and John are among those who abandoned their fishing nets to follow the Light of Christ and his witness of joy, hope, unity, forgiveness, peace and charity and of fishing for the salvation of humankind.
And of course, in John 8:12 “Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
In the City of Corinth Paul defends the fullness and the joy of the Cross of Christ and the unity of light it symbolizes. He challenges the darkness of division and disagreement. While preaching Paul says, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that all you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you.”
Truly, there are times we feel certain darkness in our hearts. There are times we feel our fundamental human rights, our property, our freedom, even to worship have been violated or denied. There are moments of darkness of division, racism, discrimination and misunderstandings in our neighborhood and societies. Sometimes we feel the weight and the darkness of disappointments, wars, terrorisms, distrust, defective-political structures and judiciary systems in our nations, joblessness, high cost of educations and health care, the disparity gaps between the rich and the poor, illnesses, the clutches of sins and bad habits.
In these darkest moments the good news is that Christ who is the Light and our Salvation is on the way to “Zebulun and Naphtali”. He is here with us, in our “Zebuluns and Naphtalis,” in his Words and Deeds, in our homes and families, communities, schools, and places of work, in the Eucharist we receive, and in the Support and Encouragement we continuously give to one another.