Readings: Is 8:23-9:3; 1 Cor 1:10-13,17; Matt 4:12-23
Christ the Light of the world and source of unity is the overarching theme for the readings of this Sunday. The readings draw our attention to two central themes that are closely related: Christ revealed as the light of the world; and Christ in whose name we are baptized and united. Both these themes are interwoven. The first reading gives an example of the kingdom established by David which was torn apart by divisions soon after Solomon’s death. Consequently, foreigners invaded the Northern Kingdom in 733-32 BC and occupied it, and further threatened the Southern Kingdom of Judah. For centuries thereafter, darkness reigned all over Israel. But today’s first reading prophesies a great light in time to come. Great joy and happiness would be restored. A king of peace would come to establish freedom and unify Israel forever. The second reading gives another example of divisions in the Christian community of Corinth. Paul reminds the Christians there that they belong to Christ, and not to any particular apostle who may have baptized them. It is the death and resurrection of Christ symbolized in their baptism, which binds them together as a Christian community.
In the Gospel, Matthew uses a passage from the First Reading to show that Jesus is the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.” Jesus Christ is therefore our light and source of unity in a world that is very much in need of enlightenment and unity in the midst of fragmentation. Ideological differences, regional and civil wars, ethnic conflicts and Christian divisions continue to cast a deep shadow over the world. Our Christian faith and hope, however, tell us that someday a great light will indeed shine and unity will be restored. The source of that light and unity is Jesus Christ. As Jesus begins his ministry, He proclaims a message of repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That message is a wakeup call for all disciples of Christ to be transformed into God’s authentic witnesses in a world overshadowed by the darkness of disunity due to human pride, greed and selfishness. Our witness will only be effective if we are first transformed into the light of Christ and signs of the unity; if we shed off our pride in realizing how much we need to be enriched by Jesus Christ, and by one another’s traditions. If we are credible witnesses, others will want to become Christian. Mahatma Gandhi was once asked by a Western journalist why he did not want to become Christian. He said: “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." He found Christians in India so divided and fighting among themselves that he preferred to remain a Hindu. The central message could be summed up in three points. 1) The readings remind us that as Christians we are called to unity that requires true conversion of heart and mind towards God and other fellow Christians. 2) As long as Christians remain divided, their witness will continue to be conter-witness, weak, a scandal and unconvincing. 3) Unity between Christians can be a powerful instrument for ending divisions no matter how deep, and conflicts no matter how vicious, and help lead to peace, unity and reconciliation in the Church and in the world. Think about it.
©2017 John S. Mbinda