Our country appears to be under a constant state of siege. Polarization does not seem to be dissipating but sometimes it feels like we are tearing each other apart. Laws are passed that do not protect the dignity of the person but justify the taking of life from the womb of his or her mother. We are no longer a nation that welcomes people to our shores but limits access and cages those fleeing violence and seeking asylum. More people seem to be dying of cancer, far too many people do not have access to quality healthcare and the rise of drug-related deaths and suicides among our youth is at epidemic proportions. Gun violence and mass shootings have become the norm and nothing seems to change.
And yet, we need not give in to the temptation of despair. Hope is presented in today’s reading from Matthew. “[T]he people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen” (Mt. 4:16). This proclamation, quoted from the prophet Isaiah, (cf. 9:1) I took special comfort in while reading it today.
We certainly are a people sitting in darkness and are overshadowed by death on every side. Yet, we are not overcome. We can feed the darkness or be fed by the light. As Christians, we believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. And his antidote to address the darkness comes to us a few verses later. Jesus began to preach and say,“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17).
Jesus’ message is as simple as it is clear. Jesus is the kingdom of heaven that is at hand. He is present among us as the light shining in the darkness. We can repent, come out from the shadows of our darkness, or we can retreat deeper into darkness. Each thought, word, or action contributes to deepening the present darkness or to the light that will overcome it.