Homily – Sunday, the 22nd January 2023
Reading: Matthew 4: 12-25
Have we ever encountered a situation where we reckoned that we are on a journey through dark valleys or that we are in the region and shadow of death? The journey could be very difficult. But imagine a light at the end of the tunnel. A new glimmer of hope. A new ray of possibilities.
This darkness could be an emotional crisis, a financial crisis, a physical crisis, a relationship crisis, a political crisis, a career crisis, a natural crisis, a confrontational crisis, a technological crisis, the list can go on.
Imagine the journey in the pre-crisis stage as you saw the crisis developing, the acute stage when the crisis began to unfold before your eyes, the chronic stage when you saw responses not yielding result and of course in some cases we have seen the post conflict stage where one or the other kind of resolution was resorted.
Crisis could have been triggered by conflicting interests, styles or values but can really cause real dark phases in our lives.
Here in the gospel narrative we are told about the light that dawned in contexts of darkness, deep darkness- Christ the Light.
A New Beginning
One of the mysteries in the life of Jesus is the time span of which nothing is mentioned in the Bible. The last of his childhood narratives was when he was twelve, the encounter with the wise people at the temple. Then came another long eighteen years. Instead of speculating on those days or summarising scholarly opinions on the same I would rather call them years in oblivion, years in preparation, the forgotten years. And here in the text that we read, Jesus comes into public gaze. The arrest of the Baptist was perhaps the sign. Jesus withdrew into Galilee wherein he would begin the next phase of his life and work.
Sometimes these phases are clearly demarcated and sometimes not. But it points of a possibility of a complete turn over in our tryst with the future.
New Beginnings could be continuations of the old, but they do happen. Sometimes there could be a total discontinuation too.
Turning points are part of history and so are they part of each person’s life.
From the lost years, undocumented years Christ is now entering the documented phase of his ministry, the significant phase of his ministry that was recorded for posterity.
Some people say he settled with his father’s business and joined the fishing and farming community around Nazereth. Others talk about a two decade long walkabout. The mysteries around Christs undocumented eighteen years would continue to kindle the imagination of many but the point here is- There is always a next step.
The first question for today is- Is it not time to come out more openly to be witnessing to Christ in and through our lives.
I was like many of us surprised when a couple of days ago Jacintha Arden the Prime Minister of New Zealand (youngest female pm when she took office at 37) announced her resignation and then the news of Chris Hipkins being her successor came. When she sighted burn out saying there is not enough in the tank and her desire to spent more family and personal time and time with her child. New beginnings are always possible and can happen at unexpected points in time.
Are we tired, burned out, crying within ourselves- enough is enough!
Are we in forgotten years
A new beginning is possible
A New Home
Here is Matthew telling his audience- Did you know Jesus is making his home in my own city.
We are told Jesus is now making a new home. He was born in Bethlehem, fled with his parents and lived as a refugee in Egypt, waited for regime change and then came and settled in Nazareth. Did he wander around for some time as a young person. And now as he begins his new phase of ministry he is making a new home in Capernaum, by the lake in the territory of Zebulun and Napthali. The gospel writer connects it to the prophesy saying it as already pointed out that the Messiah would live on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles.
Have you ever imagined living in the peripheries, the margins, the borders of two conflict ridden communities
Take a look at the map- Napthali and Zebulun were bordering the Arameans and whenever Arameans marched to Jerusalem they marched through this territory. As they entered the territory they would make their presence known and as they returned with captives they would make their power known again. The people lived in fear, in the shadow of death, in darkness and they would have been the ones who longed for light more than anyone else.
Jesus makes his home with them in Capernaum. Jesus makes his home with the vulnerable, the broken. They might not easily repent and come out of their safe religiosity but they were witnesses to many of the miracles and teachings of Jesus. Jesus making their town his home opened a great possibility of repentance and believing for them.
Capernaum was also a trading city and a customs port and all the elements of international trade routes affected the identity of the place. Situated in the main trade route between Damascus and Egypt one could say that strategically Capernaum would be the place with the largest reaching out possibility.
Jesus’ shift of the base of operation marked the new beginning of the journey towards the cross and beyond.
Are we considering new homes? I am not talking about real estate investments but a radically NEW home.
Matthew points at possibility. From Egypt to Capernaum through Nazareth was a meandering journey but a journey in which Christ was prepared for the larger mission of his- that of salvation to human kind and all of creation,.
A New Light
The prophesy was clear- 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.
Two of the phrases and the contrasting imageries are significant. One is people sitting in darkness and they seeing a great light and the other is people sitting in the region and shadow of death and a light dawning for them.
Literally it could mean life under a foreign regime. However benevolent the colonial power is subjugation is painful. It affects your self-worth and dignity. Most of the post-colonial scholars agree that one impactful tool of all anti colonial movements was the affirmation of self-worth. Despite the fact that the colonisers skilfully used the divide and rule policy and widened the already exciting schisms between peoples the search for freedom began with the realisation of the darkness of subjugation- being a no people. Wars and conflicts worsened the darkness and make places loom large with the shadow of death.
Some of us would have visited the Killing Fields. Over a 100,000 people killed during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambochia. When you see human skulls exhibited as a reminder of those dark days- we ask why? And the answer- we should not allow the darkness of ancestors confronted to be stolen from the collective consciousness of next generations.
This darkness and shadow of death could have varied manifestations in the personal, family and community life of people. It could impact physical, psychological, mental and spiritual realms of life.
As Christ enters there is a big light coming into the darkness and into the shadow of death.
This New Light is what we celebrate in our Christian life trying to lighten the corners we are placed in.
Within our darkest night,
you kindle the fire that never dies away, never dies away.
That’s the reason why we prayed
Shine, Jesus, shine,
Fill this land with the Father’s glory;
Blaze, Spirit, blaze,
Set our hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flow,
Flood the nations with grace and mercy;
Send forth Your word,
Lord, and let there be light.
A New Movement
This passage also tells of the beginnings of a new movement. The Christ movement. The invitation was clear- Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. Repentance- metanoia- calls for a change of direction in the journey.
We then read about the call of the first disciples. Matthew tells us about two sets of brothers. Peter and Andrew, and James and John. Some parallels between them are that they were all fisher people and working in their business when Jesus invites them. The first were casting their nets and the second mending their nets. Follow me, Jesus said. To the first he said- I will make you fish for people and they left their nets and followed. James and John, when they were called left their boats, their father and followed him.
Perhaps what stops us from a new beginning could be the net or the boat that we are unwilling to give up.
Perhaps our refusal to repent could be the cause of the darkness that we deal with.
Discipleship is an invitation – Follow Me. And the ‘following’ demands renunciation, sacrifice and passion.
And our response is ‘O How I Love following you my Lord”
Capernaum was the home of Peter and Andrew, James and John and also of Matthew the tax collector. Jesus made his home there
Today where does Jesus make his home
At Christmas we often ask
Is there room in your heart
For God to write his story
It is worth asking- what is happening to this Jesus movement today.
We are reminded that if we have to ashamed because of Christ be happy about of it but never allow Christ to be ashamed because of you- the way you conduct your life with the identity of Christ
If this movement is not exciting people and the new generations what has gone wrong.
With a new found passion we should be able to sing
Jesus, be the centre,
Be my source, be my light,
Jesus, be the centre,
Be my hope, be my song,
Be the fire in my heart,
Be the wind in these sails,
Be the reason that I live,
Jesus, be my vision,
Be my path, be my guide,
A New Transformation
What did this new movement do.
Jesus began travelling throughout Galilee
He taught the good news of the kingdom, curing every disease and every sickness among the people. His name spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them.
Lives of people were touched and transformed.
And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
Thou, who didst come to bring
On Thy redeeming wing,
Healing and sight,
Health to the sick in mind,
Sight to the inly blind,
And now to humankind
Let there be light!
We are a community called to transform the darkness around us bearing the light of Chirst.
Remember Christ said I am the Light oft he World
Christ also said- You are the Light of the World
Yes New Beginnings are Possible
The Best is Yet to Be