Theme: JESUS, THE LIGHT OF LIFE AND THE LIGHT OF HAPPINESS
- Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3
- Psalm 26:1. 4. 13-14. R. v. 1
- 1 Corinthians 1:10 – 13. 17
- Matthew 4:12 – 23
Today is the 3rd Sunday of the Year. The readings today tell us that Jesus Christ is the light of life and the light of happiness! In the New Testament, light symbolizes 3 main things, that is, (i) anything that shows us the way to God, (ii) life and happiness, and (iii) light as good as darkness symbolizes evil (NJB: John 8:12b). In the readings today, light symbolizes life and happiness! Jesus is the light of life and the light of happiness!
The gospel today tells us that Jesus is the light of life and the light of happiness! But more importantly, the gospel today tells us that Jesus is the light of life and happiness, because he preaches the good news of repentance: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven (God) is close at hand”! The parallel text in “Mark 1:14-15” which is more original reads: “Repent and believe the Good News”!
In this short text is contained the “Messianic Secret” to life and happiness! Repent means more than turning away from sin, it also means turning away from the world! For if we only turn away from sin, but not turn away from the world, we will turn back to sin again and again and again and again ….! Turning away from the world does not mean escaping from the world and being irresponsible to the world, but it means not believing that power, richness, status, etc., can give us life and happiness!
But more importantly, the gospel today tells us not only to turn away from sin and from the world, but to turn to God, that is, to believe in him, to believe in his love, his mercy and his forgiveness, to believe that God, and God alone can give us life and happiness!
It is most important not only to believe in God, but also to believe that God is love! There are as many “Gods” as there are religions. There are the “Gods” of the law, of “justice”, of revenge, of war, etc., but the God of Jesus Christ is a God of love, mercy and forgiveness! The “Gods” of law, “justice”, revenge, war, etc., cannot give us life and happiness, only the God of Jesus Christ can give us life and happiness!
That is why the gospel today quotes the first reading from Isaiah to tell us that Jesus Christ is the light of life and the light of happiness: “The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death a light has dawned”!
The gospel today tells us that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading!
The first reading is from the prophet Isaiah! The historical context of the first reading is in the 8th century BC (Before Christ), when the Assyrians invaded “Zebulun” and “Naphtali” (“Capernaum” in the New Testament) in northern Palestine and exiled their people!
It was in this historical context that Isaiah prophesied: “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. You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase; they rejoice in your presence as men rejoice at harvest time, as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils”!
The gospel today tells us that this prophesy of Isaiah of life and happiness is fulfilled in Jesus Christ when he came to proclaim the good news of Repentance: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand”, or in the parallel text in the gospel of Mark: “Repent and believe the Good News”!
The responsorial psalm helps us to meditate on the first reading. The responsorial psalm today is a psalm of “trust in God” (CSB/NAB), that is, to trust that God and God alone is the source of life and happiness and salvation!
Thus in the response of the responsorial psalm we sing: “The Lord is my light (life and happiness) and my salvation” (NJB)!
The second reading does not follow the theme of the Sunday readings, but today the second part of the second reading is relevant to the theme of the Sunday readings, as Paul tells us “to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed”! (1 Cor 1:17).
We have to preach the Good News (“Kerygma” in Greek) of Christ’s death and Resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the Salvation of the world, so that the world may believe and be saved and find life and happiness!
Preaching politics, sociology, psychology, human wisdom, philosophy, science, “social justice”, etc., will never ever give faith and salvation, and life and happiness to the world!
Let us now conclude with the second part of today’s gospel; found in the long form of the gospel, that is, the calling of the first disciples! The gospel today tells us that when Jesus Called Peter and Andrew, they “at once” left their nets and followed him! And the gospel tells us that when Jesus called James and John, they “at once” left their boat and their father and followed him!
Why was their response to the call of Jesus immediate and total, immediate, that is, here and now, and total, that is, leaving everything! This is because to proclaim the Good News is the most important and the most urgent thing to do! Some things are important, but not urgent. Some things are urgent, but not important. Some things are urgent and important, but not the most important and the most urgent! But to proclaim the Good News is the most important and the most urgent!
The Church exhorts us today to go forth and proclaim the good news so that the world may believe and be saved, and so that the world may find life and happiness!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.