On the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, the readings are clearly about light:
[Isaiah 9:1] “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.”
[Matthew 4:16] “The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”
The passage from Isaiah refers to the solemn promise made by God to King David that his kingdom will be established forever; and the second one refers to the keeping of that promise in Jesus Christ, the “Son of God” but also the “Son of David” as, historically, he is a descendent of King David.
The Bible offers the details of the ups and downs and the dramatic turns of this kingdom. Due to wrong choices, errors and sins, David’s earthly kingdom became fragmented in the centuries after his passing and crumbled helplessly starting from the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali. St. Matthew introduces Jesus as the great light sent by the Father to dispel the darkness that was blanketing the earth; with the land of Zebulon and Naphtali being covered by the thickest shadows. As the Father’s promise unfolds, one can see how the ancient kingdom of King David, tainted by sin and enveloped in darkness, becomes the Kingdom of heaven, the Kingdom of light, the Kingdom of Jesus, descendent of King David. This radical transformation that began two millennia ago was triggered by a heart-felt, urgent call to conversion from the lips of Jesus echoing the sentiment flowing from the aching heart of the Father.
“Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
Over those two millennia, far from losing intensity, this plea has become more pressing, more compelling. Through the flesh of his Son, the Father has an immediate knowledge of the infirmity of human life lived out in thick darkness. Hence, in the wake of the Incarnation, the Father must have decided “to go slow on us.” While physically among us, Jesus, the Son was beset with the frailty and wretchedness common to all mortals and, therefore, he will never forget the constraints of human finitude. He knows that on our own we would continue to grope in darkness. The call to repentance, the call to step into the light of Jesus, the royal Son of David, reveals the Father’s intention to intervene directly to make us people of royal blood. As we hear that call, again today, we should brace for this unmerited, divine intervention the way Peter and Andrew, James and John did.
To repent means shedding mere human ways of reasoning and allowing ourselves to be completely and unreservedly open to whatever the Father has in store for us. Learning from the reaction of the first four disciples, to live in the Kingdom of light as royal people we have to rid ourselves of whatever still belongs to the realm of darkness. It is something comparable to fishing nets, boats, workmates, father, home and all the rest left behind by Peter and Andrew, James and John when Jesus called them.
Most likely, this is not the first time Jesus’ call to repentance has reached us. In the past our chronic lukewarmness might have muffled it so much that, by now, it might leave us unaffected.
However, if we are intent on recovering the original intensity of this call we shall discover that enjoying the first rays of Christ’s light requires an enormous leap of quality, from what is earthly, natural and mundane to what is heavenly, supernatural and divine.
Wait, before we sound the alarm and settle for habitual, imbedded lukewarmness, we must realized that the Father in heaven does not expect us to quit our job, look for an ecclesiastical employment of sorts, leave our loved ones behind, sever all ties with friends and country. Rather, our Father expects us to do everything as we did before the call to repentance, but now to do all that in a manner becoming of our being sons and daughters of God, princes and princesses of royal blood—Davidic blood to be exact!
From the day of our Baptism and whenever we partake of the Eucharistic Table we strengthen our belonging to Jesus’ royal bloodline. We have royal blood running though our veins! Noblesse oblige, my friends: for a long time (since days after birth for most of us) we have enjoyed and walked in Christ’s light at the Table of the Word and since our First Holy Communion we have been fed royal food and drink. We have a serious obligation to conduct ourselves in such a way that people around us may be intrigued by the divine glow of Christ’s light and pause to wonder if they themselves might desire to walk in that light.
On the day of our Baptism we were given a candle lit from the Easter Candle, symbol of Christ, the Light of the world. Can we possibly run the risk of dismissing the following two statements made by Jesus about us who are the people on whom the great light has shone? [Matthew 5:14] “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.” [Matthew 5:16] “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
All together we are the city on a mountain; our collective light cannot be ignored; it is too intense. It is made up of our little individual lights all around Christ’s light. As Church, as city on a mountain we must shed the light of unity of intent, of hope even in dire situations, of guidance amid massive disorientation, of solid answers to existential questions and of truth in the quagmire of relativism. As individual Christians, too, we shall conduct ourselves as people of royal blood cognizant that the eyes of the world are trained on us all the time. Concretely: we should carve out half an hour from our busy schedule to list the main insane, godless ideas floating around in our dark world and also the most unsettling and horrific actions that they inspire. Then, we should carve out another half an hour to list what inner attitudes, virtues, longings and commitments the light of Christ shining from the pages of the Gospel nudges us to adopt and to carry to fruition so that it would become impossible to overlook that we are members of Christ’s royal family. At first we might feel that our little light is too weak; yet, little by little, we will realize that we are surrounded by myriads of other little lights. All of them together, united by a single intent, will make a substantial difference.
The difference is guaranteed because the source of all these lights is Christ himself, the King of the Kingdom of light; hence, soon the darkness enveloping the world will be dispersed and the joy given us by Christ will extend to the ends of the earth.