God's Word on Sunday: Hearts aligned push back against darkness

  • January 20, 2023

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Jan. 22 (Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17-18; Matthew 4:12-23)

Gloom and God do not go together, for God is life and light. Isaiah’s prophecy was addressed to Galilee and Samaria, who had been crushed by the Assyrian invasion and destruction of the land in 722 B.C. They had indeed walked in darkness, and this contributed to their downfall. Although they had been warned many times through prophecy, they had not heeded the calls to repentance and reform. 

Even though they had been devastated, God assured them that this was only temporary. A great light was coming into the land and their enemies would be defeated and broken, bringing them hope and a future. 

Eventually the yokes of all oppressors will be broken. Unjust and oppressive people and systems cannot survive for long because they are opposed to God and to divine law. They sow the seeds of their own destruction. For our part, faith and patience are the tools that we need to walk out of the dark valley. 

An infallible sign of God’s presence is joy. This is not a superficial and saccharine sort of “joy” or a Pollyanna attitude but an inner radiance that is the result of gratitude, hope, faith and love. And it can be — and often is — present in very negative and trying situations. We are not defined by what goes on around us, but by what comes forth from within us. Only we can decide what form that will take.  Genuine joy could do so much to heal our world today but unfortunately, it is in very short supply. This is an urgent call to draw closer to God in heart, mind and spirit.

Paul knew this all too well. The community in Corinth was being torn to shreds by factionalism, competition and backbiting. The Corinthians had developed competitive one-upmanship into an art form. Paul recognized that it was only by putting aside these negative practices and attitudes that the community would be healed. The Spirit cannot do its work in such an environment, nor can people realize their spiritual potential. Paul exhorted them to take their eyes off one another and focus on Jesus Christ, the only one whom they should emulate and count as a mentor. 

Being of the same mind and purpose does not mean that everyone thinks exactly alike or that there are not differences of opinion. It is merely a call to be on the same page for the things that matter and to ensure that all hearts are together and in the right place. We cannot have a peaceful and harmonious world unless we practise this in our families and communities. It is a very effective way of pushing back against the darkness.

Jesus entered into the territory of Zebulon and Naphtali, so Matthew immediately portrayed this as a fulfillment of the prophecy from Isaiah. Jesus was a “great light” indeed, so this seemed like a good fit. Light was dawning for those dwelling in the shadow of death. His opening salvo was the proclamation that the kingdom of Heaven has come near. In other words, God was restoring the world and all dwelling in it to direct divine control. The world was in for a makeover. 

It is amazing that when Jesus called the first disciples, they immediately dropped everything and followed Him. They abandoned homes, employment and families — the force of Jesus’ voice and personality must have been irresistible. We might wonder if they had been prepared in some way. Perhaps preachers and teachers had laid the groundwork. 

His offering to make them fishers of people had a special meaning. Fishing is an end-times symbol in the New Testament. Throwing out their nets and hauling in the catch was bringing souls home to God before the final days. Fishing has remained a metaphor for spiritual outreach for centuries. It has been said that anything at all can be the lure or bait to catch someone’s interest and bring them to God. 

Jesus continued His mission using the simplest of means: personal presence. He spoke in the synagogues and to ordinary people, all the while tending to their physical needs as well. Our own efforts today are fairly much the same: comfort and support, and an invitation to a personal relationship with Jesus.