The Sunday Homily

“A people who walked in darkness . . . “

This phrase from Isaiah in the first reading is referring to two tribes of Northern Israel who were conquered by Asyria almost 700 years before the coming of Jesus; as a result, their populations were mixed with pagans and foreigners.  They represented people considered unclean.  From that area come Samaritans; and from that area, Galilee, comes Jesus.

Of course, today darkness seems to be growing everywhere.  We think of countries where people live with oppression and military rule, like Myanmar; but we also think of countries of seeming non-stop strife like El Salvador and Venezuela.  We consider people who have no freedom and no opportunity to be as people living in darkness.

If we are honest, we also notice the darkness in our own culture.  Is there a  night on TV when we do not hear of teens and younger children shot?  We sigh in relief if a whole week goes by and there is not some massacre in a shopping mall or church.  Economists regularly talk of recession and inflation.  We smirk at would-be public leaders who tell outright lies and expect to get away with it.

Jesus comes from a land enmeshed in darkness.  There is not only the occupation of Israel by the Romans; there is also a staleness to faith, as if people have run out of energy and hope.  “The kingdom of God is at hand,” Jesus shouts, as if trying to get our attention.  The light that is God’s divine presence in our midst has begun to shine.

“Repent,” is the poor translation of the word the scriptures have Jesus using.  Jesus is not telling us to give up chocolate or beer.  He’s telling us to wake up, to let our mind be flooded with a new vision, to let our staleness be startled by the Kingdom that is appearing in front of us.

So shocking is this message that we have to reflect on what it did to people.  Andrew and Peter hear the invitation of Jesus and immediately give up their fishing profession.  James and John hear the invitation and immediately leave their dad and co-workers in the boat.

We show that we have heard Jesus’ invitation by the changes we are willing to make in our lives.  Some of us are called to give up homes and occupations.  Our Church has been blessed by people who felt the call to live fully and explicitly as clergy and religious.  But Jesus’ call extends to everyone, to make every calling we have, every way of life, into a sign of the Kingdom of God.  For all of us can let the light of Jesus shine into the darkness of our lives through compassion mercy, justice and generous love.  All of us can carry a part of the Kingdom into the world in which we live.

Paul reminds us that our salvation doesn’t come from fancy philosophers or any range of religious figures.  Only one was crucified for us; only one gave the witness of his own life in martyrdom so that the Kingdom could be revealed in his Resurrection.  The light of that resurrection has, indeed, shone on the world and changed the meaning of our lives.

And that light gives us a choice: to be people who have gotten used to the darkness around us, or to be people who disrupt our world with the vision of hope.


For Reflection: In what ways do I resist the light of the Kingdom and prefer the darkness?


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