THE GREAT LIGHT IN GALILEE
HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A (SUNDAY OF THE WORD OF GOD). Readings: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13.17 and Matthew 4:12-23.
The city of Galilee is so significant in the history of salvation, since majority of Christ public ministry took place in the northern area of Israel, around the Sea of Galilee. God certainly has a special blessing for this once lightly esteemed place. It is in the fabled Sea of Galilee that Christ walked on water and calmed the storm. It is where Christ fed the crowd with a few loaves and fish and also gave the Sermon on the Mount. It is where John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ in the river Jordan, after which, he began his public ministry with the call of the first four disciples as the liturgy of today presents to us.
From the historical and geographical perspective, the city of Galilee falls under the northern kingdom of Palestine. Palestine has two kingdoms: the northern and southern kingdoms. These two kingdoms are always in conflicts and the northern kingdom, which is in Galilee, was almost eliminated by the southern kingdom. In 721BC, Galilee was invaded, captured and was forced into slavery by the Assyrians. As a result of constant/frequent crises in the northern kingdom (Galilee), their economy and commercial activities suffered a serious setback, it lost attraction to foreigners and traders, and was seen as a nation of people who lived in darkness, where nothing seemed to work. Little wonder did Nathaniel ask after seeing the situation of Galilee, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Nazareth is a small town in the province of Galilee” (Jn. 1:46).
The present Nigeria’s situation can be compared to Galilee, as some foreign agents, investors and companies are making their ways out of the country due to the decline of security and the hike of corruption, which has practically brought down our economy and so many of her citizens living in chronic or abject poverty. Invariably, we sit in darkness, not only from the aspect of the power holding company (the lack of electricity), but in so many other spheres of life.
As a result of the Galilee situation, the prophet Isaiah in the first reading brings the message of hope, restoration, liberation and deliverance. He said, “In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the later time, he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (Is 9:1). ‘The former time’ speaks of the defeat of Jerusalem in Israel by the Assyrians, which will impoverish the people and will ultimately lead to their enslavement, and will be known as the time of “darkness” that is mentioned in the following verse, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in the land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (v.2). It was this darkness that brought about the faulty leadership of King Ahaz, by his failure to trust Yahweh, but will unfortunately have alliance with the ‘superpower’ of the Assyrians when he was threatened. However, Yahweh did not give up on Jerusalem, there will be better days ahead, ‘the latter time’ mentions in 9:1 “A time Yahweh will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” by breaking the rod of the oppressors.
Like the Galileans, let us tell ourselves: God has not given up on Nigeria and God will not give up on us, neither will he give up on our individual situations. Let us work with God and take our country back from the hands of our abductors who have held this country in captivity and slavery for years. Let us make sure we have our Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and vote for a competent leader among other candidates. By so doing, God will restore light and salvation to our nation as the psalmist tells us.
Similarly, the gospel affirms this great light shown to the people who walked in darkness saying, “Leaving Nazareth, Christ went and dwell in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that was spoken by the prophet Isaiah… the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned” (Matthew 4:13). The gospel expresses Christ to be this great Light. To make his light shine and overcome the darkness of Galilee and the world by extension, he called or employed some men (the first four disciples) to work with him, and immediately he called, they left everything and followed him.
Leaving everything to follow Christ is a sign of conversion of someone leaving darkness to embrace light, leaving your past life to embrace a new life in Christ, leaving your sins and weaknesses to embrace sanctity and holiness; leaving everything to follow Christ was to leave their setbacks, their division and disunity to follow Christ. It is on this note that St. Paul in the second reading appeals to us in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ as brethren never to allow such vices or weaknesses of us reoccur, that is why he said, “There should be no dissension among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:11).
Christ is bringing light to us today and to banish darkness in our lives and in our land. He said, “I am the light of the world, anyone who follows me will have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12). To follow him is to practice his word rooted in the Scripture and St Paul urges us “Not to be only hearers of the word but doers of the word” (James 1:22). It is on this note that the celebration of today as “Sunday of the Word of God” becomes meaningful to us, as we have it enthroned, not only in the Church, but in our hearts, and to make it manifest in our actions by eliminating darkness. One of the practical ways of doing this, is to get our PVC and in good conscience cast our votes for a competent candidate, with lesser or no complicated character or identity nor associated with corrupt practices.
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ