Sunday, January 22, 2023

Formation As Acclimatisation

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

(Sunday of the Word of God)

Readings: Isaiah 8:23-9:3; Psalm 26 (27):1, 4, 13-14; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23

Picture: by Joe Pearson on Unsplash

My dear friends, imagine for a moment that I’m sitting in a dark room, and someone suddenly shines a bright light on my face. How will I react? Most likely, I’ll close my eyes, cover my face, turn away from the light. Having been accustomed to the dark, I need time to get used to the light, a period of acclimatisation, to make the transition from darkness to light. We find a similar transition in the scriptures today.

The first reading speaks of a people living in darkness, who finally see a great light. Scholars say this prophecy likely foretells the rise of a new king, possibly Hezekiah, who will free the people from the oppression of the Assyrian Empire. But the gospel gives the prophecy a deeper meaning. Its ultimate fulfilment is found not in Hezekiah, but in Jesus. It is Jesus, the King of kings and the Good Shepherd, who helps his subjects make that crucial transition from the darkness of sin to the bright light of God’s kingdom of love and peace. Of course, this comes as no surprise to us, since we often ponder this same prophecy in the joyful season of Christmas.

But now, in Ordinary Time, we are drawn to pay closer attention to how exactly Jesus fulfils the prophecy. We’re told that he begins his preaching with a message of repentance, a call to turn away from the dark toward the light. Which makes a lot of sense, when we recall how anyone who’s used to being in the dark tends to react to the light by instinctively avoiding it. And beyond repentance, Jesus also calls to discipleship, inviting people to follow him, to live with him, to learn from him, to make him the centre of their lives. He also promises to give them power, flowing from his Cross, to usher others into the Light. He will make them fishers of people.

Repentance, discipleship, and mission. This is how the Lord acclimatises us to living in his Light. This is the process of formation he offers us as a precious gift, to which we need to keep submitting ourselves. A process centred on Christ, the Word-of-God-Made-Flesh, whom we encounter not just by studying the Bible, but also by participating regularly and actively in the worship offered by his Body, the Church, as well as by reaching out in some way to those who suffer.

Repentance, discipleship, and mission. This is how we overcome our tendencies not just to avoid the Light, but also to domesticate it, or to relegate it to some small insignificant corner of our lives. As the Corinthians seem to have done in the second reading. Leading Paul to call them to repent of their petty divisions, and to focus once more on Christ, in whom is found that true union of minds and hearts, beyond any merely cosmetic or manipulative expressions of friendliness. Repentance, discipleship and mission. Doesn’t this process remain particularly important for us today? Living as we do in the shadows of a predominantly consumeristic society, and an often still unconsciously clerical church?

Sisters and brothers, as we celebrate another Sunday of the Word of God, what shall we do to allow the Lord to continue acclimatising us to his Light today?

No comments:

Post a Comment