3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Darkness Dispelled

The proclaiming, listening and exploring of Scripture has been, since the time of Jesus, the ministry and work of disciples throughout the world. This is the "good news" that has echoed down the centuries, catching the imagination, generating inspiration and courage and inviting commitment. The Gospels over the last few weeks have asked us to think about those very things: the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist; the very personal invitation that we have received from the Lord at our own baptism - and the commitment that we make to that invitation.

We are all called to be disciples; we are all called to minister and proclaim, as did Isaiah, "Anguish has taken wing, darkness is dispelled."  How we respond to His call is the measure by which the Good News of Salvation is spread throughout our world.

That same "good news" is being proclaimed to us today, challenging us to believe, to reform, and to hasten the coming of the kingdom. The voice of Jesus and his people proclaiming peace, forgiveness and love cannot and will not be silenced.

But still, as we move through a world of turmoil and uncertainty, we cannot escape the many painful questions that haunt so many hearts and minds.

For many, there is no such thing as "good news." God is distant, unconcerned, unforgiving. Our vision can be so clouded by false and misleading concepts of God and Church, that we cannot see the Good News as it is placed before us.

Our vision can become so clouded that the news we bring is not "good" at all. It's not good news if death and other human tragedies are seen as "God's will." It is not good news if God's love is felt as conditional, unattainable or limited only to certain groups of people. 

Throughout most of our lives, we are surrounded by the darkness of "bad news:" the futility and slaughter of war; the miseries of poverty;  the stressed environment; the divide between races and religions; the conflicts across national borders; the sick left untended, the aged neglected and the killing of the unborn.  In many ways we are "overshadowed by" and quite aware of death, on a large, communal scale as we watch the devastation of natural forces, but also in our individual lives, insignificant from a world perspective, but so very important to us.

But the "good news" is that God is with us in the darkness; He stays with us, patiently and persistently.  There is light in the darkness.  This light has not left us when darkness has threatened to overwhelm us. It guides our lives so that we can be a witness, in word and deed, to what we believe for those who are in the darkness of loneliness and guilt, indifference, aggression intolerance and all the other signs of death.

The first disciples dropped everything and left to follow Jesus immediately For most of us, the call to follow Jesus has not nearly been as dramatic. There was no special moment, as in today's Gospel, when He approached us and asked us to be His disciples. Most of us were baptized, and raised as Catholics in our younger days. We went through the motions of prayer and church and sacraments. We learned the basics of Christian doctrine. And maybe after some years of questioning and wandering, or maybe just laziness and indifference, we reached a point in our adult life when we began to take our Catholic faith seriously.

Maybe we're too busy, too preoccupied to recognize the power and the beauty of the Holy Spirit abiding in us. But if we're not conscious of that incredible gift, if we don't celebrate the presence of the Spirit every day - even in the midst of the darkness - and make His power and goodness known in our speech, our attitudes and our decisions, then no one will be able to recognize the Good News that we are sent to proclaim in His name.

The first disciples dropped everything and left to follow Jesus immediately. In a certain sense, we too need to recognize the immediacy of His call - the importance of His message for today's world.

Our role as disciples is to seek and find His goodness, His truth, and His love in all persons, and to connect with them eagerly. We need to reevaluate and understand our role as church - as intended by Jesus - to be that of herald, proclaimer, model and catalyst. Constant dialogue and interaction must be the hallmarks of the Christian community, bringing about continual change and transformation, which, as Cardinal Newman said more than a century ago, is the only path to eventual perfection.

It will not be easy. It is never easy. It was not easy for the John the Baptist, arrested and eventually executed.  It wasn't easy for the first disciples who left the security of their daily lives to follow and to proclaim. But that must not deter us from our dreams and our efforts at renewal and conversion: to do anything less would be pure selfishness, a tragic sign that we care only for ourselves and not about those future generations who, with us, are church.

The Lord sends us an urgent invitation to participate in important work. The Kingdom is at hand - and this is "good news."