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Sunday after Epiphany; Matt 4:12-17

 In today’s Gospel the Lord upon hearing of the imprisonment of John the Baptist, now comes to Capernaum, located north of Israel. This region, the heart of Galilee, was the starting place of our Lords public ministry. Galilee at this time had quite a mixed population, with many Gentiles (non-Jews) in the area; hence Isaiah called it “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matt 4:15).

By settling in Capernaum and thus identifying Himself with Galilee, Christ revealed Himself as the great Light foreseen by the prophet Isaiah.

So in this passage we see the fulfilment of the prophecies from Isaiah which state:

“…By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned” (Matt 4:15-16; cf. Isa 9:1,2; 42:7).

In their original context, Isaiah’s prophecies spoke of death at the hands of invading foes. Israel was always invaded from the north (from the lands of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali), and those northern tribes were always the first to suffer destruction from any foreign foes. They dwelt in the darkness of fear and the shadow of their powerful enemies, always dreading invasion. So, St Matthew in writing this gospel had his eye on a more powerful and universal foe – the devil, who had the power of death (Heb 2:14).

It was not just the northern tribes who were sitting in darkness, powerless before sin and death, but all the people of Israel, and indeed the whole world.

But, as Isaiah had prophesised, light would dawn on them at last. God would set upon the throne of David His righteous King, who would bring peace (Is 9:6-7).

Like the sun rising triumphantly in the sky at dawn and banishing the shades of night, a light rose upon all the children of humanity, and this light, was none other than Christ Himself, the Sun of Righteousness.

To sit in darkness means to be overcome by spiritual ignorance and death. It does not mean that humanity has lost its natural capabilities, but rather that humanity’s mind is darkened, to the truths of God.

Therefore, the great light that shines on the people who sit in darkness, anticipates the gospel being preached to all, after the Resurrection.

Christ has come to preach the message of the kingdom of God, and to be the example and the way into that kingdom.

The kingdom of God is a way of life, lived in personal communion with the Life of our Creator and eternal God and His people. This kingdom of heaven is present in Christ (Matt 12:28). For this reason the preaching of the gospel is a calling of those in darkness into the light of knowing and living with God and His people.

How frightful is it for one’s life to be so distant from the light of Christ, the creator of all creation?

So therefore what is needed?

Firstly, if we are to become children of the light we must believe wholeheartedly in Christ, as God and the Son of God.

Secondly, if we believe in Christ as the true wisdom, the light of Christ will shine a path for our footsteps as we engage dynamically and follow His teachings, applying them in our actions.

It is foolishness to have with us the Light of Christ, but instead, for us to live in the darkness of hatred, envy, and to “…be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men…” (Eph 4:14).

Therefore we must enter into the spiritual struggle, to come out of the darkness of our passions and embrace the true Light that was brought into the world by the birth of Jesus Christ (Eph 4:7-11).

Christ’s first word, from the time He began to preach, like that of John the Baptist (Matt 3:2), is repent (Matt 4:17), because repentance is necessary to enter into and continue His new way of life. Repentance is a person’s turning from themselves, to God. Repentance always accompanies belief and is a total about-face. It is a radical change of one’s spirit, mind and heart, a complete reorientation of the whole of one’s life and being. It is followed by the confession of sins, the decisive act of baptism, and an actual and ongoing change in one’s life. St Paul said: “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) finding out what is acceptable to the Lord” (Eph 5:8-9).

Do not let the things of this world disperse your energy. Concentrate all your attention on, devote all your energy to, a life which corresponds to the spirit of the Gospel commandments.

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