1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
And so the ministry of Jesus begins. He leaves his home in Nazareth and heads for Capernaum that sits on the Sea of Galilee, a place that once was the region of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. These two regions in the north of Israel were renowned for its rich land and plentiful water. But they experienced great trials for having strayed from God. Yet into the midst of their darkness and gloom, a light has shone (first reading from Isaiah 8:23).
This darkness and gloom can pervade our hearts and lives as well, as it seems to have for the people of Corinth to whom Paul writes: For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." Paul exhorts the community to be united in mind and purpose.
We can scan our world today and find the scourge of war, poverty, slavery, and division. Far too many people live in a land of gloom. In our own politics and, sadly, in the church at times, we experience some of that same gloom. Division, bitterness, back-stabbing, and gossip are all examples of this darkness in our lives. Yet it is precisely there that Jesus begins his ministry in and among us: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
In the longer version of today’s Gospel, Jesus begins to gather together his apostles. They hear his voice…not just his words. They experience inexplicably somewhere deep within the call to follow him. They experience the light that dispels the dark. They see hope and possibility. The come together in community. They participate in his ministry. Let us listen again to that voice that dispels our disappointments, sins, and hurts; a voice that calls us to follow Jesus by caring for those around us who need our light to dispel their darkness.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.