Warriors of Light

The account of the beginning of the Saviour’s public life, an explosion of divine light in the midst of a world sunk in darkness, imparts hope to Catholic hearts afflicted by the apparent dominion of evil in our days.

Gospel of the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

12 When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, 14 in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 15 Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”

17 From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” 18 As He was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. 19 He said to them, “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him.

21 He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed Him.

23 He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people (Mt 4:12-23).

I – The Struggle of Light Against Darkness

The Creed proclaims the divinity of Jesus by affirming that He is “God from God, Light from Light.” It is interesting to note the fact that the term Light is used to allude to the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, which makes Two Persons one and the same being: God. On the other hand, in the prologue of St. John’s Gospel, the Incarnate Word appears as “the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (1:9). These statements carefully preserved by the Church in the deposit of Faith bring us face to face with a very difficult question: what does Light mean when it refers to God himself?

Called to see the absolute Light

We know of light through our senses. Our eyes, however healthy they may be, lose their usefulness without daylight, for the total absence of luminosity leaves man in a state equivalent to blindness. Only a few animals, such as owls and bats, manage to see at night. For the human being, therefore, light is what allows him to see things and to distinguish forms and colours. Without it there is no vision, and our understanding of the reality that surrounds us is compromised.

But material light bears only a vague analogy with the Light, in an absolute sense, which is the Blessed Trinity. If we compare the glow of a candle to the radiance of the sun at its zenith, we have a pale idea of the distance between created light and uncreated Light, which consists of the full, radiant and perfect knowledge that God has of himself and of all created beings, as well as those that could be created. This knowledge proper to the divinity is called, in theology, lumen gloriæ”.

On being rewarded with eternal happiness, the blessed share in this light, so that they see God as He sees himself, though without grasping all His grandeur, for He alone is able to comprehend His own infinite beauty in its entirety. According to the astute expression of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angels and Saints in Heaven see God “totum sed non totaliter,”1 that is, the whole of God, but not in His totality.

This very high knowledge that we will possess in Heaven constitutes the beatific vision, well defined by St. John in one of his epistles when he says that in Heaven “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2). It is a loving knowledge, which will so fill the hearts of the elect with joy as to completely satisfy their noblest desires and expectations. To immediately and intuitively contemplate the divine essence, which is absolute Love, presupposes a joy that surpasses human understanding. On the one hand, it means a reward too great for creatures as small and miserable as we are; on the other hand, it is on a par with the immeasurable magnificence of the good God.

A still latent treasure

To attain this gift which is the greatest of all, man must administer well another gift, also precious: grace, a sharing in the divine life. Indeed, there is a direct and inseparable relationship between the life of grace, which we receive in Baptism, and the light of glory. The one is to the other as the dawn is to the rising of the sun, since the beatific vision is the natural and unsurpassable culmination of the dawn of grace, as St. John the Evangelist explains: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be” (1 Jn 3:2).

The splendour of grace subtly but effectively reveals to mankind the pulchritude of revealed truth, the fascination of holiness, the unimaginable love of God for the children of Adam. This light burst upon the earth irresistibly at the Incarnation of the Word, for “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (Jn 1:4). Not everyone, however, opened their souls as they should have to this beneficial light.

Sinners entrenched in vice perceived a mortal threat in the coming of the Redeemer: “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (Jn 3:19-20). This Light to which Isaiah refers in this Sunday’s first reading (cf. Is 8:23b-9:3) is Jesus Christ himself.

The furious reaction of the hearts shrouded in evil was not long in coming, and with deadly hatred they tried to extinguish the radiance of this new Sun born from on high. Then began the most tremendous battle in history, which is still being fiercely waged in every human heart, in the bosom of the Holy Church and in society. And only the victors will receive the crown of glory in eternity.

II – Irresistible Attraction of the First Flashes of Light

The Gospel of the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time tells of the emergence of this Light, entirely supernatural and salutary, in a region which was in the darkness of sin, Galilee of the Gentiles. In this passage we contemplate the first rays begin to stream, before the eyes of the world, of the One who would heal every sickness of the people, cast out demons with unlimited power and, for those who freely accepted it, would infuse into hearts the light of grace, raising simple men to share in the divine race.

However, a more intense radiance would fall upon some fishermen of the Sea of Galilee who had just met Jesus and had marvelled at the brightness of His splendour: Peter and Andrew, brothers from Bethsaida, as well as James and John, sons of Zebedee, the first four Apostles of the Divine Master.

Vocation: commitment to evangelize

These disciples, called to follow Our Lord and to become fishers of men, received a sublime vocation. Yes, they were to cast the nets of preaching and catch new Christians, preaching the Word in season and out of season, as St. Paul advises Timothy (cf. 2 Tim 4:1-2).

The Apostle of the Gentiles furthermore insists on the necessity of rebuking adversaries, admonishing sinners and counselling the good, with patience and a desire to instruct. And he warns: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4). It is necessary to be always alert and to dedicate oneself wholeheartedly to the evangelization, which consists in shouting from the housetops what has been whispered in the ear (cf. Mt 10:27).

The sacrosanct “nets” of these skilled fishers of men present us with incontrovertible evidence: it is not enough for the Christian to be content with the witness of good example or works of charity, as some wolves disguised as shepherds recommend; it is necessary to proclaim the revealed truth loud and clear. This is what Jesus himself did, announcing the proximity of the Kingdom of Heaven and exhorting the Galileans to conversion.

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee (Israel)

Light and darkness, Life and death

12 When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, 14 in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 15 Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”

The Precursor’s ministry was coming to an end. Imprisonment would be followed by martyrdom. A life of austere penance, marked by uprightness and prophetic courage, would be cruelly extinguished. The greatest among those born of women would perish because of the vengeful hatred of a villainous woman. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30), said the Baptist in reference to Jesus. Somehow, the bloody and glorious sunset of this fearless warrior of the Light was a forecast of the divine Sun that would shine before the world.

Our Lord left Nazareth to settle in Capernaum, on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias – small in size but immense in fame – whose shores would bear witness to the untiring, amazing and fruitful apostolate of the Messiah. The oracle of Isaiah contained in this verse is thus fulfilled in a marvellous manner.

The prophet refers to darkness and the region of death. What was the sinister atmosphere among the Galileans before the coming of the Light? That dense darkness, laden with the infectious, musty air of paganism, had engendered spiritual annihilation. At the opposite extreme is Jesus, the radiance that expels the nocturnal and infernal phantoms, bringing life in abundance.

When we think of our sad world, advanced from a technological and scientific point of view, but so off course in moral matters, we realize that it is necessary for the lumen Christi to once more emit its rays with vigorous efficacy, so as to vivify a humanity that remains enslaved in the rottenness of vice and the ugliness of sin. We must open the windows and doors of our hearts to let in the fresh, pure and fragrant breeze of the Redemption. Only in this way will we see smiles full of sincere joy and hope arise on the faces of our contemporaries.

Conversion or ruin

17 From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

The invitation of the Divine Master rings in the ears of fervent Catholics like a call filled with blessings, even if it is an arduous task. Conversion is a struggle renewed each day and each moment. One must make continual progress in the spiritual life so as to become like the supreme model, Jesus Christ.

However, the tepid and lax listen to the Redeemer’s command with tedium, if not with disdain. Relativistic par excellence, this type of soul prefers to be comfortably led by the prevailing opinion, hardly resisting it, finding fallacies and sophisms within which to hide its sinuous and treacherous attitude. This is why several of the cities visited by the Messiah, after having witnessed a veritable fireworks display of miracles and exorcisms, remained in the mediocrity of their sins.

What was the result? The fearful curse of Our Lord: “Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to Heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades” (Mt 11:21-23).

If the judgement of Jesus was severe against these lax cities, His rigour was not lacking in the execution of the sentence, for a few years later they were destroyed or wiped off the map.

The Word of God is utterly serious. St. Paul compares it to a sword which pierces hearts to destroy evil and strengthen good (cf. Heb 4:12). Sad are the consequences for those who do not put it into practice. On the contrary, abundant blessings flow from Heaven upon those who consistently transform it into life. Let us take care to remain attentive and to act diligently!

Promptness in doing good, a sign of authentic vocations

18 As He was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. 19 He said to them, “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him.

St. Peter and St. Andrew had known Our Lord before. Their stirring impressions of him certainly built up in the hearts of both, and led them to the conviction that they had met someone who far surpassed the idea of the Saviour envisaged in the light of the prophecies. Jesus was undoubtedly the Anointed One so longed for by Israel, but his Person brought together a series of splendours, wonders and grandeur that exceeded all expectations. Perhaps for this reason they perceived around Him a kind of aura of mystery which made Him supremely attractive: it was His substantial union with the Father, which was not yet explicit in the minds of the disciples.

By means of this meticulous and progressive preparation, divine grace disposed them to an exemplary readiness for every form of good, over and above even the most legitimate interests. Leaving a stable livelihood and launching themselves into the adventure of following that captivating Master called for resolute enthusiasm and total confidence in Him.

This is how we should proceed when discerning our own vocation. When we see clear signs that it is God’s will that we take a certain path, whether it be religious life, marriage or another specific calling unmistakably inspired by grace, we ought to respond with the promptness of the Apostles: to leave everything and straightaway do the will of Our Lord. How many men and women have decided to embark on other paths, easier in appearance, but in reality tortuous and full of dangers! Hell is a terrible testimony to this fact. In Heaven, however, the countless multitude of those who said “yes” to the divine invitation and followed in Jesus’ footsteps enjoy the vision of God.

The primacy of the supernatural link

21 He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed Him.

The example of the sons of Zebedee, in a sense, goes even further. They abandon not only nets but their own father, an arduous sacrifice that they seem to accomplish with great alacrity and ease. In so doing, they fully demonstrate the superiority of the supernatural bond with Our Lord over any other kind of relationship: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt 10:37). St. James and St. John react with unheard-of rapidity, which St. Matthew emphasises with the adverb “immediately”. And they did well! They let themselves be led by the breath of the Holy Spirit, who enraptured them with the fascinating figure of the Master.

If throughout the centuries all those called had behaved in a similar way, history would be different. How many souls called by God have shunned the divine call, preferring the dreariness of a mediocre petty life or the deleterious sluggishness of vice. Some, like the prophet Jonah, were mercifully pursued by Providence until finally responding to the heavenly appeals. Others, obstinate in doing their own will, sank into the sad anonymity of those who join the opaque mass of the world. Let us ask the sons of Zebedee for the grace of detachment and diligence when the Most High calls us to follow Him.

The Divine Evangelizer

23 He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.

Jesus Christ, the Light of the world – Newick (England)

St. Matthew presents Jesus as the Divine Evangelizer, the absolute model for missionaries who spend their lives as fervent heralds of the Faith.

In the first place by His itinerancy, for He went throughout Galilee. These incessant journeys show that evangelization is done by going in search of people, and not only by leading an honest existence in one’s own work or home environment.

Furthermore, following the example of Our Lord, many men and women left their homelands to consecrate themselves to proclaiming the Good News to the four corners of the earth, gathering countless valuable fish into the nets of the Holy Church. Thus they have shone like powerful beacons of the divine radiance that brings life and tears away the darkness of sin. They heard the call, turned their backs on a worldly future and set out to conquer souls for God. With what weapons? The same ones used with utmost perfection by Jesus, of whom they became imitators.

Above all, they used the sword of the Word. Preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, they opened the doors of salvation to countless sinners who would otherwise have remained in the darkness and shadows of death. They also made use of the most diverse charisms of the Holy Spirit to work miracles, healings and liberations.

We conclude, therefore, that to follow in the footsteps of the Master it is necessary to be a fisher of men, to announce the truth with courage and to propagate the sublime Light that revitalizes all things.

III – Heralds of Light in a World Shrouded in Darkness

In this Sunday’s Gospel we contemplate with deep emotion the fulfilment of the promise made by Isaiah to the pagans who lived in the region of Galilee and, by extension, to the entire world. It is a prophecy full of hope, for it announces the appearance of a life-giving and beneficent Light, which in its turn generates new lights. Indeed, thanks to the promptness with which the first four Apostles responded to the Divine Master’s call, the Church Militant is born.

The path of this Light will be tragic and glorious. The sons of darkness, dazzled by its saving rays, will seek to extinguish the radiance of Christ and of His Church. And, in this sense, the Lord’s Cross represents the first frustrated attempt of the wicked to extinguish the radiance of the Redemption. The splendour of Easter morning dispelled forever the darkness of sin and death, but the struggle did not end with this culminating event.

Throughout the centuries, the Light will suffer a thousand forms of persecution. Realizing that it is inextinguishable, the wicked will seek to eclipse it to the extreme, and our present age represents the culmination of this impious endeavour. Great evils call for great remedies… Consequently, we are at the gates of the most brilliant manifestation of the divine Light, which will take place with the collaboration of those faithful hearts who, during the dense night, keep the torch of faith burning.

We too are called by Our Lord to a mission unique for its loftiness and nobility: to be warriors of the Light in this world of darkness. Let us respond with apostolic promptness to this vocation and prepare our spirits to fight against the current of vice, so that the Sun of justice may rise once again on the horizon of history to establish the entirely Marian Reign of peace and holiness promised by Our Lady at Fatima. And after facing the worst risks and undertaking sacrosanct exploits, at the hour of our death we shall see this lumen Christi dawn for us, which will be our eternal delight and consolation. 

 

Notes


1 ST. THOMAS AQUINAS. De veritate, q.8, a.4, ad 11.

 

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