Keeping the Light Burning Brightly for Ministry

Both the First Reading (from Isaiah 8:23—9:3) and the Gospel (Matthew 4:12-23) mention the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, a region where Jesus launched his ministry, particularly in Capernaum. This is also called the District of the Gentiles – Gentiles are in anguish due to alienation and marginalization, outcasts, and based on the text, they’re the “people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” in Jesus. As the Psalm 27 declares, “The Lord is their Light and salvation!”

Jesus launched his ministry at the very heart of the marginalized, alienated, poor, and outcasts. In their anguish, Jesus brought them light. Just this thought alone makes me reflect on a modern reality where major churches in the U.S. plan to establish church communities – in new developed neighborhoods where people can contribute funds to build a church. But Jesus went to the very heart of poverty and found himself in the heart of the poor. Jesus is their True Light! The gospel speaks of the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah in the First Reading. The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.

Jesus, then, took on the preaching of John the Baptist after learning of his arrest, carrying out the same message of repentance for the reign of the kingdom: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But the amazing witness to this ministry of the Light was when Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James, and John to become fishers of men. It’s amazing because they immediately abandon their boats, nets, their father to follow Jesus. Without hesitation, they immediately abandoned their source of daily living.

Jesus is indeed the Light and our salvation! We whole-heartedly received the Sacrament of Baptism to receive Christ our Light. As the Rite of Baptism instructs in handing the lighted candle: “Receive the Light of Christ. When you go out, keep this Light burning brightly, awaiting the coming of our Lord!”

Mother Teresa gives us a beautiful example of a man who was brought out of darkness into the light. One day in Melbourne, Australia, she visited a poor man whom nobody knew existed. The room in which he was living was in a terrible state of untidiness and neglect. There was no light in the room. The man hardly ever opened the blinds He hadn’t had a friend in the world. She started to clean and tidy the room. At first he protested, saying, “Leave it alone. It’s all right as it is.” But she went ahead anyway. Under a pile of rubbish, she found a beautiful oil lamp, but it was covered with dirt. She cleaned and polished it. Then she asked him, “How come you never light the lamp?” “Why should I light it?” he replied. “No one ever comes to see me. I never see anybody.” “Will you promise to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?” “Yes,” he replied. “If I hear a human voice I’ll light the lamp.” Two of Mother Teresa’s nuns began to visit him on a regular basis. Things gradually improved for him. Then one day he said to the nuns, “Sisters, I’ll be able to manage on my own from now on. But do me a favor. Tell that first sister, who came to see me, that the light she lit in my life is still burning.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies)

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