Into the Light – Dcn. John Stanley

Dcn. John Stanley’s Homily January 26, 2020

“St. Matthew tells us that Jesus left his native Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum in the territory of Zebulun in Naphtali.  This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah we heard in our first reading, ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.’  Jesus is beginning his ministry proclaiming the Kingdom of God proclaiming the Gospel for he is the light of the world and he goes down by the sea and he sees two brothers, Andrew and Simon, they’re fisherman and he calls them out of darkness and into the light.  They leave the darkness behind, they leave their boats, their catch, they leave everything immediately and follow Jesus to become fishers of men as do the brothers James and John. this whole drama of the call from darkness into light is depicted in the masterpiece of Caravaggio, the painting called The Call of St. Matthew.  Many of you may be familiar with it. In this painting, Jesus is shown entering the room where Matthew is counting his money that he has gained for the Romans and for himself by shaking down his fellow Jews. As Jesus enters he points to Matthew with his index finger extended in the same manner in which God’s finger was extended in Michelangelo’s famous fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel when he was forming Adam and the symbolism is unmistakable: God wants to make us anew in his image.  Behind Christ in this painting we see a light coming like a laser beam from his finger pointing to Matthew who at the time is seated in darkness. Matthew in turn points to himself almost stupefied that the Lord would be calling him, but the light coming from Jesus begins to radiate and Matthew’s face and eyes begin to shine. He feels the pull and he responds. He leaves the darkness, his money and everything else to follow Jesus into the light. This call that was so personal for Peter, Andrew, James and John and Matthew is meant to be just as personal for you and me.  The Lord calls each of us by name. He points to us and he summons us to follow him into the light so that we can in turn reflect that light and become the light of the world illuminating the paths of others. It’s crucial for each of us to recognize this personal call where Christ is calling us to leave our darkness behind and to follow him into the light. The two sets of brothers left their livelihood, their way of life and they followed Jesus. Matthew left his lucrative position, his life of comfort to follow Jesus. This Gospel as well as similar accounts in the Gospels of Mark and Luke are often recalled as scriptural calling into the priesthood and young women into the religious life, but we should see this Gospel as a call to each one of us, men and women, boys and girls, married and single as a call to intentional discipleship as an intentional choice to come out of the darkness and to live in the light of Christ.  Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the conversion of St. Paul. Certainly his calling was immediate and dramatic, but that’s the exception. Jesus calls us constantly. He calls us in the sacraments. He calls us in the sacraments. He has called us in baptism and in confirmation. He calls some of us when we ponder the beauty of nature. For some, the calling may be a good movie or a good book. For some of us Catholic students it might be through a teacher or through a fellow student or through some event that happens at school for he calls us with encounters with people and with events in our lives. For each of us it’s personal and he never stops calling for Jesus wants a relationship with us. He wants us to follow him. He wants us to follow him.

As you sit in the pew this morning I’d like you to ask yourself, have I heard my call from Jesus?  Have I answered the call or have I just hit the snooze bar? Am I an intentional disciple or am I just going through the motions of a cultural Catholic?  Have I stepped out of the darkness into the light of Christ? For the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Jesus is our light and our salvation and he’s here today with us at Mass in the Eucharist.  Let us ask him for the grace to choose today and everyday to abide in that most Holy and redeeming light and to walk in it. Let us go out into the world and reflect the light of Jesus on to others making them also intentional disciples.”