The Gospel of Matthew today quotes the words of Isaiah that we heard proclaimed in the First Reading:
…the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.
Jesus of course is The Light and the light that dispels darkness is the light of his Good News and of his kingdom—a kingdom of justice, mercy, goodness and enduring peace. Following upon last Sunday’s theme of being CALLED AND SENT, we take Jesus’ declaration that he will make his apostles and disciples “fishers of men” a further assurance of The Light continued—even to our own day. How could we not understand the great outpouring of our own parishioners and of the world in response to the victims of large-scale disaster as continuance of, participation in, and modern-day confirmation of Jesus’ Light and Good News active and effective. For those “dwelling in lands overshadowed by death, light has arisen” in the form of helping hands, wide scale personal sacrifice, and generous response to the cries of the poor.
Any form of dispelling darkness in our own lives and in the lives of others is certainly a sign of Jesus’ kingdom alive and well. But St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians adds a further challenge: the maintenance of Christian unity; that is, living Jesus’ Holy Communion.” Paul goes even to the point of claiming that lack of Christian unity “empties the cross of Christ of its meaning.” Imagine that! Our good works void of the accompaniment of good will, unity, and peace renders Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, meaningless. Paul specifies to the Corinthians that it is their division-causing rivalries, jealousy, and pride that rob their own personal sacrifices and good works (as individuals and as a community) of meaning and of salvific merit.
As we continue prayerfully and liturgically to grow in our understanding of what it means to be baptized and to be called and sent, let us not forget to add this crucial and vital ingredient of responding to Jesus’ call to unity and to communion—lest we stray and wind up “emptying the cross of Christ of its meaning.”