Jesus Christ Our Great Light!
Readings: (1st: Ish 8, 23-9.3; Ps 26, 1. 4. 13-14; 2nd: I Cor 1, 10-13.17; Gos: Jh 4, 12-23)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
The Holy Mother Church on this 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, in her infinite wisdom and love once again as she has always done, draws the attention of her beloved children to the Great Light, Jesus Christ. She enjoins us to draw closer to Him so that the reality of our being and life might become fully manifested, and so that the shadows that chase and dominate our lives might diminish. We are therefore to turn to the Great Light so that all the dark spots in our live may be illumined to the detriment of the evil one, but to the glory of God. The Church therefore, exalts us her faithful today, not to be contented with the lesser, false, or man-made lights because the good news already preached to us is a powerful beacon of light which irresistibly, draws us to Christ. There is a simple truth in the study of formation of shadows and mirages in optics (Physics). When a person or an object comes close to the source of light, his/her shadow diminishes and the person or object becomes more real unto oneself or itself. On the contrary, the further one moves away from the source of light, the longer or larger ones shadow becomes.
A few years ago, during what I prefer to describe as the peak of the “Pentecostal Madness” one parlance common to those who had merely changed their church for another was: “I have now seen the light, all these while, I have been living in darkness.” Unfortunately, a close look at most of such people definitely reveals that their entire lives were still shrouded in darkness and the shadows of themselves. The twist about their lives is that, “they have seen the light” not necessarily because they have changed their lives or been “inwardly transformed” by it (Rom 12, 2-3), but because they have changed their “business environments, orientations and strategies.” Such was the case of one young lady – “Ikedinaukwu”, who “saw the light” and suddenly left her former church for another reigning one. Sadly enough, it was not long before it was discovered that she was pregnant. To worsen her case was the fact that she could not say exactly which of her new “brothers in Christ” was responsible. Finally, it dawned on her that she had merely and only changed her “business environment,” and thus drifted millions of miles away from the Great Light. The only light that has the full potentials to chase away humanity’s shadow is the Great Light which is the good news and Christ whose, “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (Jh 1, 5), the same light which the Magi needed in order to find their way (Mtt 2, 1-12), and this is the same light that shone on Saul, and he was never the same, but became transformed to Paul (Acts 9, 3). This Light is “Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2, 20), in you, and in the good news.
In the first reading, Isaiah pops and pumps up our hope. This hope stems from the fact that the Lord God Himself chose to be our light. What more do we need? This is the reason the Psalmists tells us: “Happy the people whose God is the Lord” (Ps 33, 12)! It is a message of deliverance from the power of darkness that formerly enveloped and harassed us. Isaiah declared: “The people that lived in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in the land of deep shadow a light has shown.” The light which is God himself is capable of achieving so many impossible feats in the life of any child of God who humbles himself as the land of Zebulon and Naphtali did. The Great Light breaks the yoke that weighs us down, shows us the way and clears all doubts and fears in our heart, so that we can join the Psalmist in echoing: “The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear?” (Ps 27, 1).
In the second reading, Paul expressed his disappointment over the Corinthian Church or Community. He rebuked them because by their behavior, they still loomed in the shadow of darkness and ignorance. Their quarrels and segregation betrayed and shut them out of the range of the illuminating power of the gospel. Hence Paul reminds them that the bickering and hankerings amongst them is not a good sign that they have received the light of Christ. Hence, he recalled his purpose of being in their midst: “…God did not send me to baptize, but to preach the good news.” So he refused to be a champion in their “dirty ecclesiastical” politicking or their colloquial politics of divide and rule. Paul does not however mean that baptism is not part of his mission. Instead, he teaches us that the good news is the light that illumines and prepares the soul for baptism. Before one is baptized, one or ones parents are properly catechized using the illuminating light of the good news. In other words, through this, Paul draws our attention to the very essence of the good news which is, casting off the shadows of darkness and ignorance and thus, preparing us for baptism.
Furthermore, Paul simply without any harshness or brutality perfectly allowed this Great Light to pass through him unto them in a very simple manner. This is what he means when he says: “…not to preach that in terms of philosophy in which the crucified Christ cannot be expressed.” How often do we much ado about frivolities in the house of God like this Corinthian Community? When we do this, we betray the good news preached to us, and so drift away from Christ the Great Light, thus relishing in the shadow of our lives. While most of our Christian communities today are like war torn regions, battle fields, dangerous terrains, boxing and wrestling arenas, most of us members, carry in our hearts weapons of mass destruction, dangerous amours, deadly venoms, and the “earth of our hearts” are heavily polluted and loaded with dangerous “land mines,” that could incapacitated fellow brethrens instanta. A community fashioned after this Corinthian Community has not seen the light. It is a pity that in the name of zeal and service to God most of us are actually advancing the course of darkness and elongating the shadows of our communities. We do this by creating dichotomies and comforts zones accessible to us alone. No good Christian or Community receives the Great Light and remains the same as did Paul’s Corinthian Community partitioned between Apollos and Cephas!
In the gospel, the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled through the action of Christ. His presence made a great difference in the life of the people of Capernaum as well as those of neighboring towns of Zebulun and Naphtali. He brought light into their hearts and region. His light was strongly felt because it brought healing and deliverance. He proved to be their “balm of Gilead” (Jer. 8, 22). What we must learn from this is that as replicas of the Great Light, our presence too must be felt and dispel the darkness in people’s lives. The good news we bear in us must alleviate people’s problems; draw them closer to Christ our Great Light so as to diminish their shadows. Today the Church beckons us to turn our entire focus to the Great Light, Jesus Christ who says: “I am the light of the world, the man who follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”(Jh 8, 12). Wherever there is this Great Light darkness ceases to hold sway, quarrels disappears, despair, fears, anger, greed, betrayal, lying, cheating, lust, and all other vices melt away. Wherever the light of the good news and Christ shines, “the people who lived in darkness see a Great Light.” Therefore, if we follow and come closer to the Great Light, Jesus Christ, we become light ourselves and no shadows would be found around us anymore because, “in His light we see light” (Ps. 36,9)!
Peace be with you!