Third Sunday in Ordinary Time • Year A

Kevin M. DePrinzio, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Is 8:23—9:3
Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14
1 Cor 1:10-13, 17
Mt 4:12-23 or 4:12-17

Ordinary time can be so, well, ordinary. Especially after Christmas. And with the colder, darker days of winter that are now upon us, it can seem we have nothing to look forward to. It might be tempting for us to want to hibernate and to hunker down until it’s all over, until we get glimpses of light. We seek a sign of Spring: any sign, no matter how small.

Many times in life we find ourselves in moments like this one, and not just seasonally, where we long for Spring, we long for light, yet we see no end in sight. Our lives can get so bogged down by anxiety, worry, routine, or even overwork, that we can lose sense of a bigger picture, a sense of purpose. It is a type of darkness, for sure, a darkness in need of light. We can look around in our country, our Church, our world and see nothing but political turmoil and unrest, ideological battles, war in Ukraine. We look for light. We look for hope.

What we hear in today’s readings is that the light is already among us, that hope is here. Isaiah tells us that “anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, that upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” We hear not about darkness, but about light. The darkness is clearly in the past. No more anguish, but only joy. Matthew takes this text and tells us and his community that in the person of Jesus the light has already come into the dark world.

These readings are consoling and hope filled indeed, but, perhaps, we cannot help but see a disconnect. If the light has come into the world, why can’t we see it? If the light has shone, then why hasn’t our darkness faded? Why might we still feel anguish? Certainly, the gospel is filled with good news, but we may be tempted to think that this good news is not for us, and not for our time.

Ah, but it is for us! Even more, it is in us. The challenge of today’s gospel is not to look outside for the light, but to look within, to look inside ourselves and our community. At our baptism, our Godparents received a candle in our name that symbolized the light of Christ. At baptism, the light of Christ is passed on and spread to the newest members of the Christian community, whose task it is to carry on the mission of Christ. When we received the light, that was our initial response to Jesus’ invitation to follow him, just as Peter and Andrew responded in the gospel today.

My brothers and sisters, the light that the world is so desperately looking for is here, within us and among us, for as members of Christ’s Body, the Church, we are Christ in the world. Christ works in and through each one of us, and Christ continues to invite us to come after him – even in seeming darkness. The more we are aware of this, and the more we work together and unite as Christ’s Body, the brighter our light will be in a not-so-dark world after all.

None of this is to dismiss nor deny the reality of darkness in our world. As Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman once said, “Sometimes people think they have to do big things in order to make change, but if each one would light a candle, we’d have a tremendous light.” The darkness of damaging political rhetoric fades when we learn how to engage in respectful dialogue with one another. The darkness of war fades when we actively work toward peace in all of our relationships. The darkness of long winters, of routine, and of overwhelming busyness fades when we stand in solidarity with those around us experiencing similar struggles, with the poor and homeless who really have to endure the cold, when we are compassionate to others whom we might not normally acknowledge.

That is why Isaiah and Matthew tell us that the darkness isn’t as dark any more. That is why the people have already seen a great light. Our lives and our world are very much a part of the light, and that is good news.