Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light. (Mt 4:16)
Have you noticed the common theme between the first reading and the Gospel today? Isaiah’s prophecy of the light rising upon Zebulun and Naphtali is fulfilled in Jesus’ residence at Capernaum: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Is 8:22–9:1). In fact, this very phrase, is part of the first reading for Mass during the Night in the Christmas celebration. There are a couple of things about the Land of Zebulun and Naphtali during the time of Isaiah to look at to see how Jesus taking residence at Capernaum brought this prophecy to fulfillment.
The territory of these two tribes was the first to be devastated (733–32 B.C.) at the time of the Assyrian invasion, making the residents of Galilee the first Israelites in biblical history to be hauled off into exile (2 Kgs 15:29). This means that most of the educated and influential people in Israel were deported and made servants elsewhere, while much of the peasant population was left behind in the land. This painful memory from Israel’s past stands behind the darkness and death spoken by the prophet Isaiah. For this reason when Jesus, the Light of the Word, left Nazareth and entered Capernaum, Matthew saw this as fulfillment of what Isaiah spoke of: “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”(Mt. 4 15-16).
On this Sunday of the Word, we are reminded that the Holy Scriptures proclaimed in the Liturgy are very efficacious – making things happen. When the Word of God is proclaimed in our liturgical assembly today, we are counted among those blessed people on whom the light of Christ has shone. By virtue of our Baptism, we, who were once in the darkness and gloom of original sin, have been born again into the great light that is God’s grace in us. We have become cherished members of God’s family. Each of us needs to recall that in the liturgy of Baptism, the newly baptized are entrusted with a candle lit from the Paschal Candle representing Christ and are instructed “to keep the flame of faith alive in the heart.”
To keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts, we need to go through conversion every day. No wonder after presenting Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy of Isaiah, Matthew said: “From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Mt 4:17). Repent, Metanoia, is aligning our lives to the Light of Christ!
The Lord is calling us: moving us out of the darkness of this world so we can live as children of the Light.