HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
THEME: Experiencing the Light of God’s Word in Moments of Darkness.
BY: Fr. Luke Ijezie
This third Sunday of the liturgical year is marked all over the Catholic world as the Sunday of the Word of God. This was instituted by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter, Motu Proprio, *Aperuit Illis* , which was promulgated on 30th September, 2019. Christians are called upon to devote greater attention to the word of God as there one finds the answer to most of the daily problems. The readings of today help us in this reflection as they present the power of God’s light in the lives of those who live in darkness. In concrete, this divine light that comes to illumine the existential darkness is the word of God. In the Old Testament, it is the Torah and the Prophetic word, and in the New Testament the word takes flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth whose presence now brings light and salvation to darkened lives.
1. The first reading from Isa 8:23-9:4 promises a period of consolation and restoration to a people now living in darkness as a new light would shine on them. The context here in Isaiah is the Assyrian destruction of Israel, the Northern kingdom, which was suffered most by the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali. These tribes were located in the northernmost part of Israel and became the first targets of the Assyrian merciless onslaught. Isaiah proclaims that these tribes will experience a restoration in the future in a very miraculous way, similar to when Gideon and his ragtag forces defeated a more formidable Midianite army. That’s why the text says that it will be like in the day of Midian.
2. This prophecy gets literally fulfilled in the Gospel account of Matt 4:12-23 where Jesus situates the centre of his ministry of light in Galilee, which encompasses the very old regions of Zebulon and Naphtali. Matthew thus notes the fulfilment of the old prophecy of Isaiah as he says in Matt 4:15-16: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” This light that has dawned is Jesus and his Good News. Jesus is the light that has come to liberate his people from darkness, just as the Psalmist of Psalm 27 sings: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Gospel is not only proclaimed to these abandoned regions, but from the same regions Jesus chooses most of his Apostles who would continue the transmission of the message of light. Who could have believed it that the stone rejected by the builders has now become the corner stone. The Galileans were despised within the larger territory, and Nazareth which is within the same region of Galilee was among the most despised. People never thought anything good would come from Nazareth. But from there came the long awaited Messiah. Human beings are often deceived by appearances. It is always emphasized that the wisdom of God is far different from human wisdom.
3. This is why Paul warns the Corinthians in the second reading from 1 Cor 1:10-13,7 to avoid understanding the Christian message only in terms of human wisdom and human eloquence. Because of the over-attachment to human wisdom and human eloquence, the Corinthian Christian community is riddled with conflicts and divisions.
People tend to follow the preacher they consider more eloquent and more charismatic, forgetting that the efficacy of God’s word does not depend on the eloquence of the preacher. The power belongs to God who illumines his people through His word.
4. We are called to experience this word daily in our lives as it is the only hope of survival in a world enveloped in darkness. We must not only read the word; we must also experience its power. This is because the word is divine. It is spirit. It is life. It is God Himself.
Each time we approach the Sacred Page, we must know that we are not just reading only words and phrases, rather, we are touching something sacred and mysterious. Scripture reading is an encounter with God because the word itself is alive and active. It has a way of confronting us with the darkest regions of our life and telling us how to come out from the dark alley and embrace the light, which is a new life. Whether we realise it or not, our lives are daily menaced by forces of darkness which need to be confronted with a suoerior light. This light comes readily from God’s word. Sometimes we tend to silence the word of God by filling the whole space with our own words, and thereby remaining imprisonedin darkness. Even as we read the Bible, we may still fall into the danger of listening only to our own voices rather than God’s voice speaking to us through the written words.
We pray that the light of God’s word will continue to illumine our hearts and minds so that we may enjoy the wonderful things God has promised us!
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