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The People Who Walked in Darkness

January 26, 2020

A reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. The readings are Isaiah 8:23–9:3; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17 and Matthew 4:12-23.

I was driving home late the other night while it was raining. I hate that. Must be my old age. I do not like driving at night in the rain. I can’t see. Especially if I’m driving somewhere not familiar or if there’s construction. Or when there are cars coming at you with their headlights blinding you. I just want to get home quickly. And all I kept thinking of while driving the other night was the passage from Isaiah that we hear today twice, once in the first reading and then in the Gospel from Matthew:

“A people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

Of course, that does not refer to physical darkness.

The first reading tells us what darkness we’re talking about: anguish, distress, gloom, yoke that oppresses, the shadow of death… So many people suffer from that kind of darkness. I don’t have to tell you about the amount of people who suffer from depression and anxiety – I know so many people who recently have been diagnosed with anxiety: paralyzing anxiety. That’s darkness.

But I don’t want you to think that I’m saying that this darkness that we’re talking about today is  bad things or caused by bad things happening. There are many people who suffer or struggle through what we would call “dark times”; disease, debt, divorce, distress, disasters, death and somehow they are still bathed in light. Those afflictions don’t necessarily lead to darkness. Then there are other people who seem to have it all: a good job, a nice house, a perfect family, lots of opportunities, and they are drowning in darkness, they are empty.

I don’t know where that darkness comes from, but today’s readings point to two things that can be causes of darkness.

The first is from our second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. You may not be in darkness or feel the darkness, but if there is division in your life, that will lead to darkness. And division is not just something external; divisions in family, disagreements at work, or even in the Church – division can be internal. If you are someone of two minds, living a double life, conflicted between your actions and your beliefs, that will lead to darkness.

If there’s darkness in your life and you are not sure where it comes from, look inside for those internal divisions. that internal conflict. That may be the cause.

The second is from the Gospel. Jesus is walking along the shore and he sees Peter and Andrew casting their nets. Then he sees James and John mending their nets. He calls them and immediately they leave their nets behind. What are your nets? What are the things that entangle you, that tie you down, that entrap you? Again, these are not just externals like work or other commitments and distractions – these can very much be internal; your biases, your prejudices, your pride, your self-righteousness, your fears, your anger your resentment from something that happened 30 years ago… What are those knots in your life that keep you entrapped?  If you’re holding on to these “nets”, that will lead to darkness.

If there’s darkness in your life, look inside for those nets, those knots in your life that tie you down. You may need to slowly, one-by-one, begin to undo them – that may be the cause of your darkness.

The Good News today is that there is a way out of the darkness. Today’s Psalm reminds us that the only way to dispel this darkness is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. The Lord is my Light and my Salvation. Whom should you fear? If you’re struggling with darkness in your life, turn to Jesus Christ.

St. Paul tells the Corinthians that they need to keep Jesus Christ at the centre. It’s not about Paul or Peter or Apollos. And not just Jesus Christ; he very specifically refers to the Cross of Jesus Christ. If you want to come out of the darkness, look to Jesus Christ and embrace His Cross.

Which is what happens to those who followed Jesus in today’s Gospel. Following Jesus led them to the Cross. Jesus calls them and they follow. And before they follow, He invites them to repent. Repent is not a word that means be sorry or be reconciled; repent means to change your ways. He doesn’t ask us to leave our work and families behind. He asks us to leave our nets; change your ways and our thinking.

And of course, this always sounds easier than it is. I know so many of you have struggled with the same darkness for years to the point that you don’t even know what’s darkness and what’s not; the darkness has become normal. And you pray and you come to Mass every Sunday seeking a little bit of light and somehow throughout the week you find yourself sinking back into the darkness.

Stay strong!

If this is you, here’s what I want you to pray (if it’s not you, I want you to pray for someone you know that is in darkness) – every day between now and Ash Wednesday. Pray for yourself and pray for someone else who may be in darkness. Don’t just ask Jesus to take away your darkness; ask Him to fill your darkness with a little bit of light and pray with the words of Psalm 27:

“The Lord is my Light and my Salvation… One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek, to dwell in the house of the Lord all my days.”

Tell Him that you want to seek Him. Tell Him that you want to dwell with Him forever. Ask Him to help you find Him: ask Him to help you wait for Him.

And at the same time, as you find little by little more and more Light, remember that Jesus called us to follow Him. That means that we have to reflect His Light to others. Even if you feel that you are in darkness, take the Light of Christ to someone else. Give someone else Hope. Help someone who is walking in darkness see the great Light.

You may not be free of suffering, you will definitely not be free of the Cross, but you will be free of the darkness; you will be bathed in Light.

And you will dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of your life.

From → English, Reflections

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