From Darkness to the Light of Jesus

Homily for the Third Sunday of Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

We see people moving from darkness to light in Isaiah’s prophetic text in our first reading. Thank God the movement is from darkness to light and not the reverse.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone. (Isa 9:1)

The darkness occurred when the king of Assyria annexed much of the northern kingdom of Israel, turning large parts of it into Assyrian provinces in 733 and 732 BC. Then Isaiah promises light for the people in darkness and in his full prophetic passage, not included in our first reading, we see the light is associated with the birth of a child. Who is the child? Many believe the child was the future King Hezekiah. While it is true that just three decades later in 701 BC another invasion by Assyria which went all the way to Jerusalem, even camping outside Jerusalem, was miraculously defeated while Hezekiah was the king, that is not the full picture. We can read Isaiah’s text at another level, with a second level of meaning. That is what Matthew does in the Gospel today (Matt 4:12-23) as he says the change from darkness to light in Isaiah’s text was fulfilled when Jesus went to live in Capernaum and began his public ministry. For Matthew the movement from darkness to light was not something that occurred eight centuries previously but occurred in his own century when Jesus came. He tells us at the end of today’s Gospel excerpt how people experienced the light of Jesus:

He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people. (Matt 4:23)

People heard the light of truth in their synagogues and every disease and illness was cured. Galilee became the land of the free, the land of those enlightened by the light of Jesus.

There is yet another way of seeing Isaiah’s prophetic text fulfilled, not just jumping the eight centuries from the time of Isaiah to Jesus but jumping another two millennia from the time of Jesus to today. Surely we can also see the text of Isaiah in our own time, when people change from darkness to live in the light of Jesus, move from the land of various enslavements such as addictions to the land of those freed by the light of Jesus:

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone. (Isa 9:1)

One of the most dramatic examples of people moving from darkness to the light of Jesus that I have seen in recent times was two weeks ago while I was giving a parish mission in Alabama and had lunch with a group of recovering drug addicts. They had lived in darkness and tried everything to free themselves of their addiction unsuccessfully until they or a family member discovered the Cenacolo Community. It was founded by a nun in Italy thirty years ago and now has more than 60 houses around the world, including four here in the US. Their program of recovery is a spiritual program, in some ways not unlike seminary, morning and evening prayer, daily Mass and adoration, rosary three times a day and it also includes a number of hours of manual work each day. People enter the community in a mess and not only recover from addiction but by the time they leave again they also find Jesus.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone. (Isa 9:1)

Of course that text of Isaiah is lived out all around us today in other less dramatic ways. In some way we are all going from darkness to light and need to move ever more from darkness to light. It is unfortunate that we have the impression that some or many in our world today try to solve the issues in their lives by moving away from God. That is turning away from the solution to their issues; the only answer for all the questions of our lives is Christ.

There is one very particular and special way that four individuals in our Gospel today experience that movement to the light of Jesus: Peter, Andrew, James and John, when they were called by Jesus beside the Sea of Galilee. These four apostles were invited by Jesus to turn from fishing fish to fishing people for the Lord. They did not leave poverty to follow Jesus; they left careers to follow Jesus, not just mediocre careers but careers that were giving them a good income. They left their boats and their nets and followed Jesus. They left what is good for what is the best, the Lord himself.

Isaiah’s prophetic text about the people of Galilee seeing the light of God was fulfilled not only eight centuries later at the time of Christ but continues to be fulfilled in our time as men continue to answer the call of Jesus to leave their boats and nets and enter seminary, to turn from fishing fish to fishing people for the Lord himself. Sometimes you would hear people outside of seminary talk about what seminarians leave behind to follow the Lord and enter seminary. While we know that is true it is not the full story because when you leave the nets and boats you gain Jesus. “Come after me” Jesus said. Me True you no longer have the boats and nets but you are following him. Each time we listen to the Lord’s invitation in our lives, whatever that may be, each time we turn from darkness to the light of Jesus, then and only then we truly live in the land of the free, the home of those enlightened by the light of Jesus.

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2017

This homily was delivered in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More Homilies for the Third Sunday Year A

Only Jesus is the Solution to the World’s Problems

Leave the Boat and build up God’s Kingdom

"Come after Me" - The Call of the Disciples 2014

Related: If Jesus could use the Twelve apostles with their weaknesses he can use us

Answering God’s Call - Vocations in the Bible

Homilies on priesthood

Second Reading related: The Church of Jesus Christ is never my Church but always his Church 2012

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