Theme: Christ, the Light that Shines in the Darkness
In the first reading (Isaiah 8:23-9:3), the Prophet Isaiah describes the new era of liberty and joy which the future Messiah will usher in. This prophecy was given in the 8th century B.C when Galilee was populated by the Assyrians who settled there after the fall of the northern kingdom (Israel) in 722 B.C. These Assyrians who were pagans dominated the land such that it was difficult for the remnants to practice true religion. Isaiah’s prophecy was to reawaken their hope in the Messiah whose arrival would drive away the darkness of paganism and slavery and would bring in the true light of authentic religion and freedom. We see the fulfillment of this prophecy in the Gospel reading (Matthew 4:12-23) when Christ withdrew into Nazareth in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali to preach. In Galilee, Christ began his public ministry with a call to repentance, telling them to “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. The people who once lived in the darkness of paganism and sin began to experience the wonderful light of God’s presence.
The expression “the Kingdom of heaven” is usually used to refer to the Kingdom of God. The Jews at that time were reluctant to call the name of God directly. Instead, they used other names related to God. That was why Mathew who wrote primarily for a Christian community of Jewish origin always spoke of God in indirect ways. By announcing the nearness of the Kingdom of God, Jesus was not inviting them to look forward to a spiritual kingdom which would come as a reward for the just. Instead, he was announcing to them, that the reign of God has come. God has decided to visit His people, to collaborate with them and to intervene in their predicaments. To make this collaboration possible, Christ called two brothers (Peter and Andrew) who were casting their net into the sea to be his apostles. He said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. He also met James and John mending their nets and he also called them.
In their individual responses, these disciples abandoned everything to follow Christ. With Christ, they were transfigured from fisher men into fishers of men. With them, Christ made the Kingdom of God visible on earth as a structure. Thus, these disciples and their legitimate successors became the builders of this visible structure which is the Church with Christ as its cornerstone. The apostle Paul contributed towards the building of this structure in Corinth but unfortunately, the Corinthians became more interested in the labourers than in the owner of the structure. That was why in the second reading (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 17) he discouraged every form of dissension among them arising from who baptized who. What was important was not who baptized them but in whose name were they baptized.
Beloved friends, there are three lessons we can learn from these readings. First, Christ is the light that illumines our path. For us to find our way in this dark and slippery world, we must journey with Christ and this would entail a radical conversion from our evil ways. When Christ steps in, there must be a difference in our lives. Secondly, Christ is inviting us to assist in building his Kingdom on earth. We should respond to this invitation by using our skills and services for the growth of the Church. The first disciples used their skills in fishing to become fishers of men. Thirdly, the Church being a community of persons united in Christ, should not be divided on account of anything, be it spiritual or temporal. As we work and pray for the unity of all Christians, let us shun all words and actions that would bring dissension among believers. Always bear in mind the unity of all Christians which Christ prayed for. Happy Sunday. God loves you.