Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Light to Those in Darkness
In today’s readings we come upon the same passage twice. In both Isaiah, the first reading and in our gospel from Matthew we heard:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.
The first is a prophecy. The second time is a report. Isaiah said this would happen. Matthew reports that it did happen.
Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, where were these places? They were in the northern part of Galilee. One of the cities there was Capernaum. Jesus made Capernaum His base of operation when He started His ministry. These are the people who would first experience the Light.
Four of them were fishermen: Simon, later to be called Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James and his brother John. The Lord’s call to them was so powerful that they immediately left their boats and nets. From the very beginning they were told that they would have a mission, they would become fishers of men. The people of Galilee and beyond, far beyond, would no longer walk in darkness.
But many people still walk in darkness. Many people choose to walk in darkness. There are many who do not want to know the truth. They would rather stay in the dark. Here are three examples: Many people do not want to know what happens in an abortion clinic. Nor do they want to know how a woman’s life is forever changed when the life within her is destroyed. This is not pleasant. Many people would rather stay in the dark. A second example, many people do not want to know about the 32-billion-dollar human trafficking industry. They don’t want to hear about sexual slavery much of which is generated by the porn industry. That is not pleasant to hear or to think about. They would rather stay in the dark. A final example, there are many people who do not want to hear how drugs, including marijuana, are destroying our society. They hide behind the “everybody’s doing it” argument and choose to chance destroying their own lives.
Those who have been called by Christ to be his disciples, all of us, have to have the courage to bring the light of His Truth to those who choose darkness.
There are many people who are thrown into darkness. Due to no fault of their own, they are put into horrible situations. There are many children who have been shuffled from home to home in the foster system and then forced to make their way alone in the world when they turn 18. There are many elderly people who are left with hardly any income to support themselves. Just the other day a thin lady in her late 80's living on $1,100 a month and avoiding necessities like decent food told me that her fondest hope was that she would die soon so she would not have to worry about her bills any longer. That is no way for a person to finish his or her life. By the way, the money you give to the poor was used to help her. Your generosity has brought light to many who are in darkness.
Sometimes people will say to me, and, I’m sure, to you, “There is nothing anybody can do. There is no way out for me.” Well, there is something we can do. We can love them. We can help wherever possible. We can let them know that they are not alone in the world. We can pray with them. We can pray for them.
The world is beautiful for those who are in the light. The world is horrible for those who are in darkness. We are in the light. We need to bring this light to others. Like Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, we need to be fishers of men.
We need to let people know about Jesus Christ. We need to let them know that He is alive and active in the world. We need to let them know that He loves them. We need to let them know that He is calling them to come into His Light. We are not followers of Jesus Christ for ourselves. We have not been called to embrace a selfish relationship with the Lord. We have been called so we can use our own unique talents to bring others to Christ. Our central prayer, the fundamental prayer of the Church, is the Mass. The word Mass is derived from the Latin word for sending. We come together each week, and for some, every day, to receive the grace, the strength we need to complete the mission we have been given to engage others and lead them to join us in the journey of the Kingdom of God. “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand,” Jesus preached. “We all need to repent, for the Kingdom of God is here,” we echo.
We need to use our unique gifts for the Lord’s Kingdom. One person can write well. Another is an organizer. A third handles finances brilliantly. One works well with his hands. Another is a great auto mechanic. One person is naturally caring and personable. Another has the gift of remaining calm when turmoil hits. A third easily sees through people’s masks and helps them be their true selves. Whatever our gifts are, we must use them for the Lord. We must bring light to those in darkness. We must become fishers of men, and women, and children and Teens.
Jesus said to us:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp-stand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.