Today’s readings teach us that Our Lord has come to bring us light, liberty, and unity.
In today’s First Reading Isaiah speaks of the moment when Israel will be delivered from the prolonged darkness and oppression it has suffered as a result of its infidelity to God. The darkness of Israel was giving way to a great light, symbolizing the passage from sorrow and oppression to freedom and joy. That moment is described as being like the joy of the harvest: a harvest is the end of a great deal of work, patience, and anxiety. You never know how the weather will fare, whether locusts are on the horizon, and so on. You work hard, but in the end you need the Lord to bring the harvest to completion. Isaiah also makes it clear that the great light is also a liberation from oppression and slavery, evoking indirectly the joy the Israelites felt when they were led out of Egypt by Moses at the Lord’s command. In describing Midian Isaiah is referring to the story of Gideon in the Book of Judges (see Judges 8-9). Gideon defeated the Midianites with a small, select force, and credited the Lord with the victory. Isaiah uses this story to show that it is the Lord who’ll deliver Israel from oppression, not their own strength or prowess.
In today’s Second Reading Paul shows that the Lord does not just liberate us. He also wants us united around him and working with him. Paul is chiding the Corinthians because they are claiming some special provenance based on whoever baptized them or whoever was the most eloquent preacher. Their evangelizers want them united in mind and purpose around Christ and his Gospel as Christians. They were baptized in Christ, not in Paul, Cephas, or Apollos. In doing that they are giving credit where credit is due: Paul rightly reminds them that it was Christ who was crucified for their sins, not him. If they don’t give credit where credit is due, people will not be led to Christ.
In today’s Gospel Our Lord is revealed by Matthew to be that light of liberation and joy spoken of by Isaiah. The fulfillment of a prophecy is not always textbook; it doesn’t happen to the letter. Everything Our Lord said, did, and lived during his earthly mission has something to say, and, in this case, settling in Capernaum shows that light of liberation arriving to a people with a pagan past, an allusion to the darkness and oppression caused by their past infidelities. Our Lord also calls his first disciples today. His light draws others to him not only so that they can see the way, but so that they can someday light the way to Christ as well.
Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us light the path to him so that others may follow him.
Readings: Isaiah 8:23–9:3; Psalm 27:1, 4, 13–14; 1 Corinthians 1:10–13, 17; Matthew 4:12–23.