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THE PEOPLE WHO SAT IN DARKNESS HAVE SEEN A GREAT LIGHT
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, after Epiphany, January 07, 2013
1 John 3:22-4:6, Ps. 2, Matt. 4:12-17, 23-25


"The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region of the shadow of death light has dawned" (Matt. 4:16).


St. Matthew tells us that Jesus left Judea and returned to Galilee "in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-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'" (Matt. 4:13-16).


Truly, when Jesus returned to Galilee, a great light came down upon the earth, the light of the world (John 8:12), the light of men (John 1:4, 9). The liturgy says, "A holy day has dawned upon us: Come, you nations, and adore the Lord, for a great light has come down upon the earth" (Entrance Antiphon). He is the light that God has given us to shine in our hearts, the light of life. He came to give us life, the life of God that vanquishes death, so that we might live forever with him in his light. He is the light of the world who came that we might walk in the light if only we follow him (John 8:12). And this is true. If only we can avoid all sin, once justified by him through our faith, we will walk in his light. "I am the light of the world," he said, "he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). This light conquers the darkness of sin in us and takes away our pain of guilt for having sinned-even in very small things-so that we might live in his great light. He wants us to bask in this light and be illuminated by it in our hearts.


If we sin again, by using the sacrament of reconciliation we receive again his justification through our faith in him when we repent of our sin. Then his great light shines anew in our heart, rejoicing us, illuminating our mind and will, and filling us with divine love and the joy of the children of God.


This justification, which so illuminates our heart, comes to us not through our works or merits but only through those of Christ, through his death for us on the cross, where he became our substitute, suffering our punishment for our sins instead of us. When we believe in him, we are justified and illuminated, for then his suffering is counted as our suffering in punishment for our sins, and so we are justly absolved of them. Then we are illuminated by the light of his resurrection, by the risen Christ dwelling within us. It is his righteousness-not ours-that shines in us.


Then to abide in this light and not lose it and to grow still more in it we have to faithfully follow Jesus, obey him, and do his will. "He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). Thus we perform good works, and so continue to walk in his great light, and it is even increased still more within us through our works.


Truly, in Jesus Christ "the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining" (1 John 2:9). "A holy day has dawned upon us: Come, you nations, and adore the Lord, for a great light has come down upon the earth" (Entrance Antiphon).

 

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